Remember the no-calorie game that I talked about here? There are days when meatball subs would make it on my list. Because there’s no substitute, and when they’re good, they’re unapologetically good. Just the other night, eating at a local favorite called Rocco (restaurant review to come, someday), we had meatballs as an appetizer (meatballs are a suitable appetizer when you are an actual bottomless pit like we are), and they’re my favorite meatballs ever. Perfect sauce, perfect meat wads, and they’re served on top of a thick piece of charred bread that’s covered in sauce. It’s actually heaven. And in the heat of the moment, I went so far as to say they might be my death row meal. Are you familiar?—my last meal on earth, should I ever be on death row and get to choose the very last meal I’d ever eat. This spurred an ongoing craving for meatballs/meatball subs/spaghetti and meatballs that hasn’t left me yet. This, combined with my love of appetizers and bite-sized morsels and finger foods, and the upcoming Super Bowl where these types of foods are expected, and these meatball sub-inspired crostini came to be.
Crusty ciabatta bread, melty mozzarella and salty parmesan, a juicy flavorful mini meatball, and then the secret weapon. It’s not just marinara sauce—it’s half marinara sauce, half Spicy Hot Tomato Oil. If I haven’t yet persuaded you to try Hot Tom, I don’t know what else to do (see here and here). But I can guarantee it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s always in my cupboard and therefore always in my arsenal and it makes everything taste better.
Yields 15-20 mini meatballs
½ lb ground beef
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup parmesan cheese
½ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp salt
Lots of freshly cracked black pepper
2 T milk
Other needed items
Ciabatta baguette, sliced into thin rounds
½ lb fresh mozzarella, sliced thin and cut into half moons
¼ cup Pastabilities Spicy Hot Tomato Oil
¼ cup marinara sauce
2 T or so finely chopped fresh basil or parsley
Parmesan cheese for grating on top
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Use hands to mix and fold until just combined. Roll into small balls, about an inch in diameter, and place in rows on a sheet pan. (At this point, meatballs could be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for a day until ready to cook). Bake on center rack for 10-12 minutes until cooked through, and set meatballs aside on a plate while you prepare the crostini.
Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Place baguette rounds on cookie sheet and top each one with a slice of mozzarella. Bake for 5-6 minutes until cheese is melted and baguette is slightly crisped. Meanwhile, combine Hot Tomato Oil and marinara sauce and heat until hot on stovetop or in microwave. Place meatballs in the sauce and stir around to coat. Then drop a meatball in the center of each crostini and spoon a little extra sauce on top. Sprinkle with basil or parsley, and then grate parmesan over top of all the crostini. Serve right away.