Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

If you remember one of my first Kim Chee Casserole recipes (Cheese-Stuffed Bacon Burgers), you'll recall that I love stuffing cheese into the middle of ground beef. I love seeing peoples' surprised faces when they bite into something and come up with a string of melty, gooey cheese. And who can argue with adding more cheese to anything? (Well, unless you're lactose intolerant...but you can still make the meatballs! And it really isn't very much cheese. You'd probably be safe.)

Start your meatballs by turning a pound of ground beef into a large bowl (and, if you plan on photographing it, steer clear of metal bowls. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that a metal bowl wouldn't photograph well...)

For flavor and moisture, add some finely minced onion and garlic. If you've got someone in your household who's picky about onions, you could grate them instead, or chop them finely in a food processor.

Next I add breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, and milk.

Since my breadcrumbs were unseasoned, I sprinkled in some Italian seasoning, as well as salt and pepper.

I also cracked in an egg, which will keep my meatballs from falling apart.

Mix all the meatball ingredients together--I like to do it by hand to make sure everything is well mixed.

Once your meatball mix is finished, you can start on the filling. Usually I only use mozzarella, but I wanted to make the meatballs a little more special, so I used prosciutto too.

Prosciutto is an aged, cured Italian ham. It's served thinly sliced and uncooked (although you can cook it--it's delicious in pasta.) You can even make it at home, if you've got the dedication, and it doesn't have to be made from pork. Michael Ruhlman has a gorgeous-looking yet very simple recipe for duck prosciutto on his blog (and his book, Charcuterie.)

I used to think I didn't like prosciutto. Back in my deli-worker days, the prosciutto I dealt with had a weird, floral-y smell that just seemed off to me. It probably was off, at least slightly, and likely not a very high quality product. I felt weird because prosciutto was supposed to be this big, impressive, fabulous ingredient that at one point chefs were putting in everything, and I didn't like it.

Then I had a good quality prosciutto, and boy did my mind change. It was still a bit floral-y, but not overpowering. The layer of fat that ran around the outside of the very, very thinly sliced ham melted in my mouth and the leaner parts had just enough chew to them. Finally I realized what all the fuss was about.

Now, even just a few years later, good (or even just decent) prosciutto is more available. What I bought today was from the lunch meat aisle, in one of those plastic Tupperware containers, and it was perfect for what I needed it for.

I cut the prosciutto into small pieces--maybe splitting the prosciutto into eighths or sixths. The size will depend on the size of your meatballs and the size of your cheese. If you're using just a pound of ground meat for the meatballs and making them about the same size as mine, you'll need between 12 and 16 pieces. They don't have to be huge. Just large enough to wrap around a bit of mozzarella.

Which brings me to the cheese. My grocery store carries fresh mozzarella in balls, large balls, and pearls. I was so happy the day I discovered the mozzarella pearls. They are perfect in a caprese salad--just the right size to match halved grape tomatoes. Splash with some balsamic vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh basil, and you're in business.

You can use block mozzarella or string cheese if you can't find fresh at your grocery store.

I wrapped my small pieces of prosciutto around the mozzarella.

I made a bunch at a time, for efficiency.

Now you can form your meatballs. Scoop up a mound of meat. I made mine just large enough to fully enclose the prosciutto and mozzarella.

Use your finger to make a depression in the meatball and stuff your meat and cheese inside.

Cover the depression with more meat and then gently roll the meatball between your hands to fully enclose the filling.

If your meat mixture feels sticky, run your hands under the faucet to moisten them. It will make rolling the meatballs smoother.

I got 14 meatballs out of my recipe.

I sauteed them in a large pan with some olive oil, over medium-high heat.

When your meatballs have browned to your liking, it's time to pour in your sauce of choice. I went with a simple jarred sauce; if you've got homemade, all the better.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Let the meatballs simmer for at least 20 minutes.

I like to serve my stuffed meatballs over regular spaghetti, but they would be a hearty meal on their own, or great as a sandwich (can you imagine these between a loaf of crusty bread, with maybe some melted provolone on top? It'd be the best meatball sandwich ever!) Give your regular spaghetti and meatballs a grown-up makeover!

Recipe: Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
1 lb. ground beef
1/3 onion, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/3 c. breadcrumbs
1/3 grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste

12-16 pieces mozzarella
12-16 pieces prosciutto

1 jar spaghetti sauce

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, milk, Italian seasoning, egg, and salt and pepper.

Wrap prosciutto around mozzarella.

Form meat mixture into meatballs. Use your finger to poke a hole into the meatball; stuff prosciutto and mozzarella inside. Gently roll meatball between your hands to fully enclose the filling.

Lower heat to medium-low; pour spaghetti sauce over the meatballs. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, and then serve.

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