Tender and flavorful, these baked meatballs make a great easy homemade dinner perfect for any night of the week. Ready in 30 minutes make these cocktail inspired meatballs stuffed with mozzarella in an apricot, orange, and bourbon sauce and serve them overtop a side of rice.
There’s nothing like getting your hands dirty and rolling out some meatballs the old fashioned way! Roll up those sleeves and plunge those fingers into a bowl of raw meat. How much fun does that sound like? Once your hands are in it’s not gross anymore it’s just what needs to happen to shape some balls J The meatballs are browned on both sides before going in the oven for the final baking.
For the meat, we used a combination of ground beef and pork, seasoned with simple ingredients like fresh thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. The pork adds extra flavouring and spices and keeps them from drying out which is why we only added a few ingredients to the meat. We cooked the onions slightly before mixing them in with the meat to make them sweet. For meatballs we tend to always cook our onions beforehand as you want to avoid anyone biting down on a piece of raw onion. It’s not always pleasant.
The pan sauce is sweet and enriched with smoky caramel and vanilla flavours from the bourbon that thickens into a sticky sauce to coat the meatballs. Just like with wine, cook with a bourbon that you would actually drink. Our go-to is Maker’s Mark. Don’t just use anything on hand or the cheapest one you can find on the shelf. Keep in mind that lower-proof spirits require less time to cook off the alcohol. Be sure to cook on low and pour any alcohol slowly into the pan as it could cause flames. We added the acidity of the orange to balance the bourbon’s deep flavor and a touch of thyme for it’s gentle taste and hints of lemon, mint and pepper. We love a good bourbon cocktail and often traditional pairings include oranges and thyme which is where the inspiration to use these ingredients here came from.
The sauce only takes a few minutes to make on the stove and is usually ready at the same time as the meatballs. Once the meatballs are ready we like to add them back into the sauce and flip them around to cover them in the sauce. Serve them with some rice and greens for a quick and easy meal. These would also make a great cocktail appetizer. Simply roll them out into bite-sized pieces skewered onto a plate with extra sauce on the side for dipping. For a large crowd keep warm in the oven covered with foil until ready to serve. You can also make these in advance and store them in the refrigerator just warm up in the oven for about 10 minutes.
We also turned this easy dish into a meal prep option. The meatballs are easy to reheat and store and make a great weekday lunch.
**Communal tip: turn these into sliders for an epic game day app. Place the bottom of the slider buns in a baking dish, add meatball with sauce and top with extra mozzarella. Melt in the oven a few minutes and serve.