Meatballs always make a lovely appetizer. You can slow cook them in jam or jelly, thread them on to skewers with veggies or serve them as finger food. This meatball marinara appetizer is a little different.
The meatballs, which are made with beef, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic, and parmesan cheese, are baked in the oven and then squeezed into little hollowed out bread rolls. Marinara sauce and cheese goes in there too and then they’re baked again. These make a wonderful snack or light meal. If you love meatballs, you’re going to love this!
What is Marinara Sauce?
Basically, marinara sauce is made with tomatoes and seasonings. It’s similar to spaghetti sauce or pasta sauce but those might also have meat in. You can either make your own marinara sauce for this recipe or use a jar of it.
This sauce typically includes onion, perhaps garlic and some basic seasonings (not much more than salt and pepper) along with the tomatoes. You can make a good marinara sauce with canned tomatoes as your base.
There’s no need to use fresh ones unless you especially want to. If you are using fresh ones, make sure you peel them first. Nobody wants those little rolled-up pieces of tomato skin stuck in their teeth while eating this meatball marinara appetizer!
I usually add a pinch of sugar to mine. I just find it brings out the tomato flavor really well. That is totally optional of course. You can also add other ingredients if you’re making your own marinara sauce, such as shredded zucchini or minced celery. A pinch of cayenne pepper or chili powder is also good if you want to spice things up.
What Kind of Bread to Use
Whenever I make this snack I always use hoagie rolls although other types of bread would also work. A hoagie roll is like a sub or hotdog bun but it’s harder on the outside. A hoagie roll is usually split and then the filling is stuffed in there.
The reason I would suggest you use hoagie rolls is that their firm crispy crust holds the filling inside securely. Choose a soft roll instead and the meatballs, cheese and marinara sauce might (probably will) fall out. And that will be super-messy! If you can’t get hoagie rolls where you are, just choose a firm-crusted small roll and use that.
Now if you don’t especially want to use bread or you want to make these less filling you don’t have to. Another idea would be to cook the meatballs and then top them with melted cheese.
Serve them on toothpicks with the marinara sauce alongside as a dip. So now you can choose if you want to make these in bread rolls or as a simpler appetizer. If you’re serving other appetizers or these are only supposed to be a first course, I’d suggest making them the second way – without the bread.
4 Top Tips for Perfect Meatballs
In theory it sounds easy to make meatballs. Roll up some meat into balls, cook it and hey presto – meatballs! It’s not much more complicated than that but there are a few tips to bear in mind if you want perfect meatballs every time.
You can get fresh and frozen readymade meatballs from the store but take a look at the ingredients label. If you’re like me and you don’t really want all those chemicals and preservatives in your food, you’ll prefer to make your own. They’re really easy anyway. Here are some mouthwatering meatball making tips:
- Combine your meats for a richer flavor. Use part beef and part pork, or part beef and part veal. Turkey or chicken also combine well with pork.
- The breadcrumbs and egg help hold the meatballs together. You can add more breadcrumbs if the meat mixture is too ‘loose’. Don’t add more egg though, else they will have a weird ‘spongy’ texture.
- For the juiciest meatballs, sear them all over in oil over a moderate to high heat and finish them off in the oven.
- Try to make the meatballs the same size. You don’t have to be exact but if they’re more or less equal in size you won’t be overcooking the small ones while the big ones are still raw in the middle!
What do you need to make Meatball Marinara Appetizers
1 pound ground beef
¼ cup shredded parmesan
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg
2 cups marinara sauce
12 asiago cheese slices
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
8 small hoagie rolls
Salt and black pepper, to taste
How to make Meatball Marinara Appetizers
Combine the beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, egg, parsley, garlic and parmesan in a bowl using your hands.
Grind in some salt and black pepper and mix again.
Make 24 small meatballs with the meat mixture, rolling them into balls with your hands.
Heat the oil in a skillet.
Cook the meatballs in batches for 5 minutes or until seared all over.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 12 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and set to one side.
Meanwhile you can cut an oval shape from the top of each roll, leaving about ½-inch on the sides and ends.
Use a knife to hollow out the rolls, taking care not to cut all the way through.
Arrange the rolls on a greased baking dish.
Add a slice of asiago cheese into the hollowed out part.
Bake for 8 minutes.
Add 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce to each one.
Add 3 meatballs on top of that.
Add the rest of the marinara on top of them.
Finally sprinkled shredded cheese on top and bake for 6 to 8 more minutes.
Serve still warm from the oven.
What Cheese Pairs Best with Meatballs?
I typically use Asiago when I make this easy meatball appetizer but you can sub in your preference. Cheddar would go well, as would mozzarella. The great thing about easy appetizer recipes like this one is you can make such tweaks and still have a wonderful result, knowing your take on this recipe is unique!
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 12 asiago cheese slices
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 8 small hoagie rolls
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Combine the beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, egg, parsley, garlic and parmesan in a bowl using your hands.
- Grind in some salt and black pepper and mix again.
- Make 24 small meatballs with the meat mixture, rolling them into balls with your hands.
- Heat the oil in a skillet.
- Cook the meatballs in batches for 5 minutes or until seared all over.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Arrange the meatballs on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 12 minutes.
- Take them out of the oven and set to one side.
- Meanwhile you can cut an oval shape from the top of each roll, leaving about ½-inch on the sides and ends.
- Use a knife to hollow out the rolls, taking care not to cut all the way through.
- Arrange the rolls on a greased baking dish.
- Add a slice of asiago cheese into the hollowed out part.
- Bake for 8 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce to each one.
- Add 3 meatballs on top of that.
- Add the rest of the marinara on top of them.
- Finally sprinkled shredded cheese on top and bake for 6 to 8 more minutes.
- Serve still warm from the oven.
These are a little messy for finger food but they do make a great appetizer.
Swap the asiago for your favorite cheese if preferred.
Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 130Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 2gSodium: 44mgCarbohydrates: 136g