My Little Italy Meatball Sliders with Whipped Ricotta are the perfect lightened up entertaining recipe to feed a crowd.
Recently, I had the honor of competing in the Entertaining Recipes Challenge sponsored by the wonderful team from Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. My amazing friend Amee from Amee’s Savory Dish invited me to participate- we should all have friends like her! The challenge was to take a traditionally indulgent entertaining recipe and create a healthier take on it. Right up my alley! Although I didn’t win the contest, I felt like a winner just being selected to participate (cheesy but true). And I was happy to learn that top honors went to my dear friend Ally from Ally’s Kitchen with her North African Spiced Beef Ribeye Wraps. Yum!
I learned quite a few things about beef while participating in this challenge. Did you know that there are many cuts of beef that are as lean as a skinless chicken thigh? These lean cuts of beef have less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3 ½-oz cooked serving. Beef is also packed with protein, which keeps you feeling full and satisfied, builds muscle and gives you long-lasting energy. It’s also a rich source of several important vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and choline.
Another thing I learned is how important it is to choose the right cut of beef for the right application. For example, middle meat cuts like strip steak, ribeye and top sirloin tend to be more tender and stand up well to dry heat cooking techniques like grilling or sautéing in a skillet. Other popular cuts like beef chuck roast and stew meat tend to be on the tougher side and do better when braised for a longer time. This process of cooking “low and slow” in a covered pot helps these cuts become mouthwateringly tender and delicious.
Check out the Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner site. It has a wealth of information including plenty of resources on nutrition, selecting the right cut of meat and choosing the proper cooking methods. They also have a neat Interactive Butcher Counter. And of course it has tons of delicious and healthy recipes.
Now, getting on to my submission for the challenge…My Little Italy Meatball Sliders with Whipped Ricotta are the perfect lightened up entertaining recipe. These adorable crowd pleasers are a nutritious take on the classic meatball sub, a traditionally indulgent party food. Who doesn’t love a good meatball? The problem is that with traditional meatball subs, it’s very easy to overeat. They’re also typically pan-fried and coated in a heavy sauce and lots of cheese. I decided to make a healthier version of the dish by making sliders- instant portion control! My meatballs also use lean (93%) ground beef and are baked instead of fried, which shaves off plenty of calories and fat. To keep the meatballs moist, my secret is to add grated onion to the meat. To infuse them with plenty of Italian flavor, I add fresh garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley. I prefer to use unseasoned breadcrumbs because seasoned breadcrumbs often have a lot of hidden sodium. Whole wheat breadcrumbs are preferred because they add a healthy boost of whole grains.
- 1 pound 93% lean ground beef
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup grated onion
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
- ¼ cup dry, plain whole wheat breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 ½ cups your favorite jarred marinara sauce
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 slider rolls (preferably whole wheat), toasted
- 2 cups arugula leaves
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs together in a large bowl. Form into 10 meatballs. Place the meatballs on a rack in a broiler pan. Bake in the oven until cooked through, 18-20 minutes.
- While the meatballs are baking, place the ricotta, olive oil and salt in a mini food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Heat the marinara sauce in a medium saucepan on the stove (alternatively, you can heat the sauce in a bowl in the microwave). When the meatballs are done, remove them from the oven and toss them in the sauce.
- To assemble the sliders, place a few arugula leaves on each roll bottom. Add the meatballs and spoon a little marinara sauce over each one. Top each meatball with a dollop of whipped ricotta and add the roll tops. Devour!
Disclaimer: I was invited to participate in this beef challenge and was compensated for the costs involved in creating my dish. All of the opinions expressed in this post are my own.