Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Valentine's Appetizer Menu Course 2: Mozzarella-Stuffed Pesto Meatballs Featuring Garden Gourmet Herbs #TripleSBites

I'm having such a great time taking part in a very special Valentine's-themed blog event this week! #TripleSBites is featuring 20 food bloggers sharing our favorite Spicy, Saucy, and Sexy recipes that are guaranteed to tantalize the tastebuds of you and your significant other! Our fabulous hostess for the event is Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla. We're working with a great group of sponsors to create dishes meant to provide a relaxing, romantic atmosphere for your Valentine's celebration. I'm sharing a three-course appetizer menu -- along with some decadent brownies -- for my celebration menu. Today's recipe features one of my husband's favorite ingredients: pesto. My Mozzarella-Stuffed Pesto Meatballs are a snap to make, and they're bursting with Italian flavor! When your honey takes a bite of these meatballs, they'll love finding a pocket of melted mozzarella inside! 

These flavorful turkey meatballs are a snap to make thanks to Gourmet Garden herbs and spices, one of our #TripleSBites sponsors. I used their tubed garlic and Italian Herbs, as well as their new lightly-dried parsley, in my recipe. Both items are located in the refrigerated Produce section of most large grocery stores. I love using Gourmet Garden products, because they save me a ton of time in the kitchen. I didn't have to spend extra time chopping herbs and garlic. Face it: who wants to spend all night in the kitchen on Valentine's? These meatballs can be mixed and formed a day ahead, then stored in an airtight container in the fridge until you're ready to bake them. To keep the pesto flavor profile going, I made a simple creamy pesto dipping sauce to serve with my meatballs . To complete the mood, I added some fun Valentine's toothpicks to each meatball just before serving. 

Mozzarella-Stuffed Pesto Meatballs
a Weekend Gourmet original
Ingredients (makes 1 dozen meatballs):
  • 3/4 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbs. Gourmet Garden tube garlic
  • 1 tbs. Gourmet Garden tube Italian Herbs
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tbs. Gourmet Garden lightly dried parsley
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 tsp. olive oil 
For the dipping sauce:
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup prepared pesto (homemade or store-bought)
Step 1: Preheat oven to 400. Add the ground turkey, garlic, Italian Herbs, pesto, bread crumbs, and onion to a large mixing bowl. Combine with a sturdy spoon just until all of the ingredients are evenly combined. Clean hands work really well for this step too.
Step 2: Scoop approximately 1.5 tbs. of the meat mixture into your hand -- a cookie scoop works really well to ensure your meatballs are uniform in size. Place a cube of the mozzarella cheese in the center of each scoop of meat and shape the meat around the cheese. Roll into a ball and place in an oiled 8x8 baker. Arrange the meatballs in a grid fashion, four across each row.
Step 3: Bake the meatballs until they are browned and cooked through -- approximately 20 minutes. While the meatballs roast, make the dipping sauce. Add the whipped cream cheese and 1/3 cup pesto in a small bowl. Stir until evenly combined and spoon into a red serving bowl. When the meatballs are cooked, drain any fat and place them on a serving plate. Add Valentine's-themed toothpicks and serve.
If you love pesto, you have to try these meatballs! They're bursting with pesto flavor. They are perfectly spiced, and the pocket of melted mozzarella inside is a fun surprise when you take a bite. We loved these meatballs as an appetizer, dipped in the creamy pesto sauce. However, they'd also be great served over pasta and topped with a pesto-infused marinara for a fabulous dinner entree. Be sure to check out all of the fabulous dishes that the rest of today's #TripleSBites bloggers are sharing today!

Disclosure: Gourmet Garden provided me with samples of their herbs and spices to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed are solely mine.

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