Thursday, April 29, 2010

Comfort Food Basics: Gigantic Meatballs aka Italian Mini Meatloaves

I really wish I could tell you that my life has been less crazy lately, that all of the issues I have been dealing with in my personal life have been magically resolved and everything is smooth sailing from here on out. Unfortunately, that is not the case quite yet. I am incessantly busy, there is a whole lot of stress flying around, and wow job hunting is such a challenge! In addition to my own chaos, the daily tasks of ordinary life still persist, which means picking up my daughter and taking her to her skating lessons and making sure that she gets good healthy meals. It is soooo tempting to just eat out on these busy nights, and alas, I find myself falling into the trap many folks do, you know the one. The it is too late to cook, let's just grab something trap.

This kind of thinking actually goes against everything I have believed for so long. Cooking for me has never been a chore or something that "takes too long." Why then am I taking the bait and eating out, when it is far more cost effective to eat in, not to mention far more soothing and healthful to create my own meals? It is a brand new bad habit that I am determined to put a stop to, or at least put a huge crimp in. Last night, even though I was stuck in traffic while driving my kid home from an appointment, I resisted the urge to just pull into Cracker Barrel on the way home. I knew I had some fresh lean ground beef waiting in my fridge and a home cooked meal was, if not minutes away, at least not more than an hour. Actually, it look a lot less than that, as it turns out. And these little tiny bundles of meat and gooey, oozing mozzarella cheese were just the thing to remind me that eating at home is truly a comfort in itself.

See the cheese just beginning to ooze out of the side? Mmmmmm

Gigantic Meatballs aka Mini Italian Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaves
(as adapted from an Apron's recipe)
(serves 4)

1-1 1/4 pound lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store bought), divided
1 large egg
1/2 cup dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
4 sticks of mozzarella string cheese (or just cut 4 logs of cheese from a larger block)

optional garnishes:
extra marinara sauce
fresh parsley, minced
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a baking pan big enough to hold 4 mini meatloaves. If you bought the string cheese, be sure to unwrap them from their plastic sheaths now. Do you have any idea just how hard it is to open little string cheese sticks when your hands have meatloaf mixture all over them? I do, hence the recommendation ;)

In a large bowl, combine the meat with the chopped onions, 3/4 cup of the sauce, egg, and bread crumbs. Mix together well by hand until everything is combined together nicely. Shape into 4 portions. Take each portion of meat and form it around a stick of cheese, making sure the meat covers every speck of cheese. If you leave any gaps, then the cheese will start oozing out of the meatballs and all over your pan instead of of melting nicely inside the meatloaf.

Pop the meatloaves into the prepared baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes or so, to allow the molten cheese middles some time to cool slightly. While the meatloaves are resting, heat up the remaining 3/4 cup sauce. If you prefer more sauce, you might want to go ahead and heat up a little extra. Once the sauce is hot enough, spoon some over each meatloaf. Before serving, you might also want to spoon a bit of extra sauce directly onto the spot on your plate where you will set the meatloaf. Garnish with a little fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if you like.

I served these with some leftover broccoli casserole and some red potatoes that were simply cooked for 12 minutes in the microwave, then tossed with some garlic butter and fresh parsley, as suggested in the original recipe.


  1. It's so easy to fall out of the habit sometimes when we are stressed and tired of cooking for ourselves. Don't beat yourself up. The important thing is to keep at it as you have done here. When I make meatballs I make double what I need and freeze the rest so that for those busy days I have something I can just heat up and serve over boiled pasta

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement Wizzy :) Btw, I love your avatar!

  3. I enjoyed reading your posts! I do love gigantic meatballs too!!

  4. Thank you Dennis :) I was at a really nice Italian place in Delray beach, FL where they served a giant meatball as an appetizer - it was really incredible. This was just an easy recipe, so it wasn't quite as spectacular as that version, but it was still really good.