Why just put cheese ON your meatballs when you can put cheese IN your meatballs? These Pepper Jack Stuffed Meatballs with Chipotle Sauce ooze with cheesy goodness. Definitely NOT your average meatball!
Meatballs are a popular item with my clients, so I’ve made a few in my career. Here are some tips and tricks to make the process go faster and give you even-sized meatballs.
Get all the ingredients except the ground meat mixed together first. This ensures all the ingredients–especially the seasonings–are evenly distributed. When I mix up any ground meat dish, I wear disposable gloves and mix with my hands to get the job done faster and more thoroughly.
The best way I have found to portion and form meatballs is with a cookie dough scoop. I have several sizes and for these, I use my 1 1/2-inch scoop. Grab a handful of the meat mixture in one hand and the scoop in the other. Use the heel of the hand holding the meat mixture to level off the scoop. Empty the scoop on a baking sheet. After portioning the meat mixture, press the cheese into the center and roll into neat balls.
If you don’t have a large cookie dough scoop, press the meat into a rectangle shape on wax paper on your counter, cut into 24 even squares, stuff, then roll into neat balls.
It’s important to keep the size of the cheese cubes to about a half inch. Any larger than that and you’ll have more cheese on your baking sheet than in your meatballs. A little will ooze out, but I think it adds to the cheesy goodness. Use a good-quality pepper jack cheese such as Cabot rather than a pepper jack processed cheese product. The latter will really ooze out!
I admit to being a lazy meatball maker. Although frying does give you a nicely browned exterior, frying meatballs is messy and requires more active time and attention. Instead, I place them on a foil or parchment-lined baking sheet and simply bake them. Ground beef should always be cooked to 165 degrees in the center.
Serve over rice or pasta. Enjoy!
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can (28-ounce) tomato sauce
2 cans (10-ounce) diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
3-4 chipotle chiles in adobo (or to taste), minced or pureed
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk, whole or 2%
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup panko
1 1/3 pound ground beef
5 ounces (approximately) pepper jack cheese, cut into 24 half-inch cubes
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium and cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring often or until onion is soft. Add remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until thickened. Adjust seasoning as desired.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray.
In a bowl, combine egg, milk, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic and panko and mix well. Add the meat and mix well.
Form into 24 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Press a cube of cheese into the center of
Place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until center is cooked through to 165 degrees.
Serve with sauce over rice or pasta.
MAKE-AHEAD: The sauce can be made 2-3 days in advance, cooled and refrigerated. The meatballs can be mixed and rolled 1 day in advance. (Be sure ground beef is very fresh.) Reheat sauce on the stovetop and bake meatballs prior to serving.
TO MAKE GLUTEN-FREE: Use gluten-free panko or crushed rice cereal such as Rice Chex.