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Cheese Capped Meatball and Mushroom Appetizer

Meatballs are the ultimate go-to appetizer for casual get-togethers. They can simmer in slow cookers for hours (or at least through halftime), and no matter what sauce concoction they are in, they are always tasty and filling. We've upgraded the classic ground beef and pork mixture to one that incorporates bison and veal, and we've turned it into a plated presentation that will go the distance against fancier companions on any table.
In Italy, the meatball is known as a polpette, and the traditional version is quite different from what we Americans think of as "Italian." First, there is no spaghetti involved; rather, they end up doused in a soup. The polpette is a golf ball size at least, and polpettines are more marble-sized. We'll stick with what we know here at Our House and Garden: Meatballs.

While bison and veal are pricy, once you've tried these, you may never go back to ground beef! I might add ground chicken as an experiment next time.

My first small batch turned out to be a complete meal at six mushrooms. Then, I was telling my friend Gina about them, and being Italian, she suggested an olive oil drizzle. Of course! This light sprinkle at the start kept the mushroom rims moist - they were even better. Garlic could be another add-in, but the mix as it stands lets the specialty meats really shine. (Don't argue with a garlic lover over that one, though.)

In a larger diameter, you can enjoy these for a meal as well, simmered in a sauce, ladled over pasta and served with bread (here in Texas, that's for sopping). And if you want to be a "real" Italian maven, make your own sauce from scratch. That'll tie you up for a couple of days.

Make the entire batch of meatballs and freeze before or after cooking if you don't want to serve a crowd. They'll always be handy to pop out, thaw and plop into mushrooms.

Note: For a low-carb version of this recipe, just replace the panko crumbs with plain pork rinds that are finely ground. (Purists will swear this changes the texture, but we're no purists here.) Look for the lowest carbohydrate marinara sauce. Ours is the HEB brand of pomodoro sauce, and it is mighty tasty.

Ingredients

Makes approximately 48 med/60 small

For the meatballs:

1/2 lb ground bison
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
2 eggs
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan (canister)
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 Tbs red pepper flakes
1 tps black pepper

Medium-large button mushrooms
Olive oil for drizzling
Marinara sauce of choice
1/4-inch thick mozzarella squares (to top each mushroom)

Instructions

Make the Meatballs:

Beat the eggs in a small bowl.
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a pan with foil and coat lightly with cooking spray.
Roll meat mixture into balls; approximately 1-inch rounds.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, check for browning and turn as needed.
Remove from oven and let cool.

Mushrooms:
Remove stems and gently scoop out insides (they do not have to be too clean). Discard or save stems for a separate use.

Line a deep-sided pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
Pop a meatball into each mushroom cap.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil across the tops.
Cook at 350 degrees F. for about 15-20 minutes.
Remove from oven and cover with dollops of marinara sauce.
Add a square of mozzarella cheese on top of each mushroom.
Return to oven and back for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted.

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South Padre Island, TX 75686

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