Food & Recipes

Kid-Friendly Finger Food: Italian-Style Mini Meatballs

by Annabel Karmel

Kid-Friendly Finger Food: Italian-Style Mini Meatballs

These are perfect for small mouths. You could substitute ground chicken for either the veal or pork, or use just one type of ground meat.

Preparation: 40
Cook: 30 minutes, plus 2 to 3 minutes for cheesy topping
Makes: about 30 meatballs
Suitable for freezing
Suitable for children under 1

For the sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
one 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 ½ teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup vegetable broth

1/4 pound ground beef
¼ pound ground veal
¼ pound ground pork
1/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
3 tablespoons milk
a small handful of parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to season
2 or 3 tablespoons canola oil, for frying

1. First make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the onion for 10 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then transfer half to a food processor. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, sugar, oregano, and vegetable broth to the onions left in the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 25 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, add the ground beef, veal, and pork to the onion in the food processor. Whiz for a minute to chop everything, then add the bread crumbs, milk, parsley, and Parmesan, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until well combined. Form rounded teaspoonfuls of the meatball mixture into about 30 small balls. You can now either fry the meatballs or bake them in the oven.

  • For frying: Heat the canola oil in a large nonstick frying pan and fry in batches of 8 to 10 meatballs for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until golden. Drain on paper towels.
  • For oven browning: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put a baking sheet in the oven when you turn it on and allow it to heat up. Put 2 tablespoons of canola oil on the hot baking sheet and add the meatballs. Bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

3. Puree the sauce until smooth, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to the saucepan and add the browned meatballs, using a slotted spoon. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve with spaghetti or in hollowed-out French bread.

Optional Cheesy Topping

Transfer the cooked meatballs and sauce to a baking dish, sprinkle with 1 cup grated Cheddar or mozzarella, and pop under a preheated broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

From Anabel Karmel's Top 100 Finger Foods