Meatball sliders

Sliders have become popular in the last few years. I love serving them to a big crowd since they are fun to eat and very economical. These meatballs are incredibly moist and flavorful and fit right into a small hamburger bun, Hawaiian bread bun, or small Parmesan roll. Any meatballs you don’t use can be frozen for future bashes. Think of these as the centerpiece of an afternoon of football watching, or offer them as a little bite with a glass of wine.

Serves 16 to 24 as a main course or 60 as an appetizer (makes about sixty 2-inch meatballs).

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 leeks, light green and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and shredded, or 1 cup preshredded carrots

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 large eggs

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 cup chili sauce

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup fine dried bread crumbs (panko works well)

1 tablespoon Seriously Simple Seasoning Salt (page 217) or store-bought seasoning salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound lean ground veal

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (15% fat)

1 1/2 pounds ground pork

Two 26-ounce jars good-quality marinara sauce

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

60 mini-buns or slider rolls

Method

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté them for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until they’re soft and translucent. Sauté the carrots for 1 minute, add the garlic, and sauté for 1 minute more.

Cool the cooked vegetables and transfer to a large bowl. Add the eggs, Dijon mustard, chili sauce, parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, seasoning salt, and pepper.

Blend well, using a large spoon or your hands to mix all the ingredients together. Add the veal, beef, and pork and mix to blend all the ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a few baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. With your hands, gently roll the mixture into meatballs about 11/2 inches in diameter. Place them on the baking sheets and bake for about 35 minutes, or until cooked through and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, heat the marinara sauce in a large Dutch oven or a deep skillet large enough to hold all the meatballs. Add the basil, thyme, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Heat the meatballs in the sauce for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is coating the meatballs nicely.

If the rolls are not precut, cut them horizontally part of the way through. If desired, spread them out on a baking sheet and bake in a 350°F oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Place a meatball and some of the sauce inside each bun, arrange on a platter, and serve immediately.

Party Prep

The sliders may be prepared 1 day ahead through step 4, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat on medium heat, basting with the tomato sauce, until the meatballs are hot. The cooked meatballs, without the sauce, can also be frozen.

The Clever Cook Could:

Serve the meatballs with 2 pounds of your favorite pasta (it will serve about 12 people).

Make a meat loaf. Form the meat and vegetable mixture into a large loaf, place it on a baking sheet, and bake it for 1 hour at 400°F. For extra flavor, spoon over some of the sauce while the meat loaf is cooking.

Make the meatballs spicier by adding some crushed red pepper to the meat and vegetable mixture.

Freeze some meatballs and add them to your favorite soup.

Recipe copyright Diane Rossen Worthington, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Photograph copyright Yvonne Duivenvoorde