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Italian Meatballs With Caprese Salad

Italian meatballs garnished with Parmesan and parsley, with caprese salad on the side

Italian meatballs garnished with Parmesan and parsley, with caprese salad on the side

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

20 min

30 min

50 min

6 servings

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef, at least 15% fat, not extra lean
  • 3/4 pound ground Italian pork sausage, hot or mild
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • 2 large leaves fresh basil, finely chopped (chop just before adding)
  • 1 cup bread crumbs, panko or original
  • 2 eggs, large
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly grated preferred (plus more for garnishing)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar tomato sauce, marinara or arrabiata works well

For the caprese salad:

  • 4 medium tomatoes, preferably heirloom or off the vine - the more flavor the better
  • 8 to 12 fresh, large basil leaves
  • 1 (16-ounce) log fresh mozzarella

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Instructions

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-high, and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Saute onions, letting them sit without stirring for periods so they get brown and caramelize. When the onions are almost browned add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes, stirring. Salt and pepper. This step is often omitted in meatball recipes, but it adds a depth of flavor to your aromatics that cannot be achieved by cooking them in the meatball.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all other ingredients. Add the sautéed aromatics. Mash with your hand until just combined. Do not overwork the ingredients.
  3. Form 12, 2 1/2-inch meatballs. Using the same pan you cooked the aromatics in, re-heat to medium-high. Add an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the meatballs in the skillet.
  4. Let meatballs rest long enough to brown well before turning. Brown well on all sides. Add tomato sauce, and turn to a low simmer while you prepare the salad.
  5. Note: There is a debate on what type of bread crumbs to use in meatballs. My suggestion is to try freshly ground, dehydrated, and panko and see which type you prefer. They will all work in this recipe.
  6. While the meatballs are cooking, assemble the salad. Cut the tomato and mozzarella into 2/3-inch slices. Place a slice of tomato on a plate, stack off-set a slice of mozzarella, then a basil leaf. Alternate 2 to 3 times, as desired, ending with tomato.
  7. Salt and pepper the salad to taste. Traditional caprese is just finished with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, but I like to add a little extra flavor with a simple vinaigrette.
  8. Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Drizzle ~ 1 teaspoon over each salad plate.
  9. Serve meatballs 2 to a plate. Top with tomato sauce, Parmesan, and parsley.

Photo Guide

Caramelize the aromatics.

Caramelize the aromatics.

Combine the meatball ingredients.

Combine the meatball ingredients.

Don't overwork the meatball mixture before cooking.

Don't overwork the meatball mixture before cooking.

When browned on all sides, simmer meatballs in tomato sauce.

When browned on all sides, simmer meatballs in tomato sauce.

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© 2016 Melissa Holton