Baked Mini Meatballs With Spicy Sauce


The hubby and I are such habitual entertainers that it's almost impossible not to find me cooking up some fun appetizers or concocting a favorite cocktail in our house for friends. While I do my thing in the kitchen, part of his tasks is usually turning on all the candles in every room, and making sure the music of choice for the evening is ready, although while I'm cooking and setting the table, I've already got music playing to keep me jovial and party ready. But five minutes before our guests arrive, that's when the hubby changes the genre of music, tailoring it for the theme of the evening and lowering the volume so that it becomes background music that allows our guests to speak without having to shout to hear each other.

Being that it's the season where people spend more time entertaining. I thought these brilliantly scrumptious baked meatball pops would make an ideal appetizer for either game night, cocktail night, or just girls night in. I'm more of an appetizer than an entree kind of gal, so to me anything that is a one or two-biter is a winner in my book. And what's nice about this recipe is that the meatballs can be made ahead of time and be kept frozen.

Ingredients

1 lb. turkey (I only use turkey in this recipe to keep it light and figure friendly since they're for appetizers)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3 slices of bread (soak bread in milk - make sure to wring the milk out of bread very well)
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup chopped parsley (or 2 tbsp dried parsley)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt (seasoned salt is great in this recipe)
3/4 black pepper

Direction

* Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

1. In a large bowl mix together all ingredients except the meat. Then add the turkey (or ground meat of choice) and stir to combine everything well without overworking the meat.

2.Using your hands, shape the meat into round balls (whatever size you want) I usually make them bite-size for appetizers - that's why I call them pops, cause you can just pop them in your mouth.

3. Spray your cooling rack. Place the meatballs on the cooling rack set in the baking sheet (so they can cook evenly all around).

4. Bake uncovered for 18 - 22  minutes until golden brown and no longer pink in center.


Marinara Sauce* (or you can always use a favorite)

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup red wine (Chianti is a good choice)
1(28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 dried bay leaf
2 pinches of red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste

Direction

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic and saute until translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scrapping all the brown bits, until all the liquid evaporates about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, bay leaf and red pepper flakes (if necessary: add more salt and pepper to taste). Cover and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes.


Tip: This is another recipe that can be made a day ahead, which makes it even tastier since it gives all the flavors time to all marinate.


*Most of the time, I opt for fresh homemade marinara sauce by usually roasting a mix of fresh plum and roma tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper. Then in a skillet, I saute onion, fresh garlic adding the roasted tomatoes, chopped parsley cooking it for about 12-15 minutes before blending it into a great homemade sauce finished with a sprinkle of grated Romano cheese. But believe it or not, according to the experts, canned roma tomatoes are fresher than the ones at your local grocery store.



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