Go on, admit it. It’s going to be a good night when you walk into a party and see a steaming hot serving dish of zesty meatballs. These homemade beauties take a bit of effort but are so much better than buying frozen meatballs. They’re packed with bits of flavor that say, “I made this and know exactly what ingredients are in these meatballs!”
For me, that’s an important bit of information. Have you ever looked at the inches long ingredient list on packages of frozen party foods? It’s frightening. Take an afternoon and pull a batch of these together. Your guests will think you’re pretty special.
Warning: a perfectly spiced tomato sauce boasting a hint of sweetness from blueberry jalapeño pepper jelly might make you forget to make small talk.
Jalapeño Pepper Jelly Party Meatballs Recipe
2 cups pitted Kalamata olives
1 Bermuda (red) onion, chopped
1 cup mint leaves, stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, stems removed, chopped
1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
1 T Kosher salt
3 lbs ground beef
1 lb mild Italian sausage
1 – 12 ounce can tomato paste
6 cups low salt beef broth
2/3 cup blueberry jalapeño jelly, or other fruit pepper jelly
Note: fruit pepper jellies abound at larger grocery stores, or make for a fun find at your local Farmers’ Market. The benefit? Fruit adds another layer of flavor, and balances the heat. It’s flirty and spicy, all at once. Isn’t that what a cocktail party is all about?
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Combine olives, onion, mint, and parsley in food processor and pulse until well chopped. In large bowl, stir together panko through sausage until well combined. Add olive mixture and stir thoroughly.
Moisten hands and roll mixture into balls, about one inch in diameter. Place balls one inch apart on aluminum foil lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Remove to storage container.
For Jalapeño Pepper Jelly Tomato Sauce:
Heat large saucepan over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown. Add beef broth slowly, whisking to loosen any browned bits from pan bottom. Add pepper jelly, whisking to combine with tomato paste. Increase heat slightly to bring pan contents to low boil, stirring.
Place meatballs in crockpot and add Jalapeño Pepper Jelly Tomato Sauce, stirring gently to coat meatballs. Keep crockpot on low to serve.
Meatballs may be prepared ahead and frozen in ziplock baggies for up to one month. Defrost in refrigerator and warm in sauce before serving.
Makes about 60 meatballs.
While meatballs can be served with just about any alcoholic beverage, Stephanie Davis, a wine educator with Winacea, believes that a Spanish Rioja, made from the Tempranillo grape, is perfect for this pairing. Inexpensive and with traditionally soft tannins, a Rioja is an agreeable match for the spicy notes in this recipe, which Stephanie says is key. Too high of tannins in a red wine can magnify the spicy heat in a dish. Because some Riojas have minty or eucalyptus notes on the finish and will highlight similar flavors in the meatballs, this is one to swirl and then dig in! She recommends the Lan Rioja Reserva, agreeably priced at $17/bottle.
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Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, because living brings its own humor, angst and heroism. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @where she hopes you’ll find illumination of the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Vodka and recipes optional.