Easy Italian Meatball Appetizer
Pull together bagged frozen meatballs, jarred pasta sauce & sliced fresh mozzarella for an easy, tasty Italian Meatball Appetizer! Or dinner. Just add French bread.
Whew! Are you as tired as I am? Giving a big party, a busy vacation, holiday prepping and tasty new recipes are all fun. But non-stop activity can take a toll. And the holidays have barely started!
Even a food blogger can need a cooking break!
So, with the biggest activities still on the horizon, I decided to reprise a super easy Italian meatball appetizer that I posted December 2016. And happily it’s a dish that can also works as dinner—just add salad. Can’t beat that!
The idea came from my teenage nieces who made a version of this (sans French bread) as an appetizer one Thanksgiving. They started with a pasta recipe designed as a dinner entree and re-purposed it. Genius!
How This is Different
Most of the meatball appetizers around are the meatball-on-a-toothpick type. While those are admittedly easy to serve, this gives you a big flavor bonanza.
Plus you get the extra health value from the tomato sauce and the fresh mozzarella cheese.
Even the baking pan cooperated, going right to the table. Sliced French bread completed the dish. How easy can a tasty, hot appetizer get?!
Step by Step Directions
I put this appetizer together very quickly.
I poured the frozen meatballs into a pan.
Topped with jarred sauce, covered it and popped everything into a 375-degree oven.
35-45 minutes later, when everything was hot, I topped with slices of fresh mozzarella and put it back uncovered for another 10 minutes until the cheese was soft and melty. I added the French bread to the oven for the final cooking time.
Can I Serve This for Dinner?
I will confess, I have done this for dinner too. Hey, some of my most fun dinners have been “let’s eat a bunch of appetizers” meals! If you add a salad, which is always delicious with Italian food, you’ll take the meal to two servings of vegetables, which is what I like to see.
Other options? You can serve with pasta or even ladle onto hoagie rolls for a tasty meatball sandwich!
Meatball Options (including Vegan)
I chose to base this recipe on frozen, pre-cooked meatballs for the ease of preparation, but there are many other options. The meatballs I originally used are no longer available and the only others I found at my small town grocery had (gasp!) preservatives. But checking online it looks like there are lots of good options if I’d planned a little earlier.
If you have a great homemade Italian meatball recipe, that should be delicious in this! Making meatballs from scratch will add to the prep time but might be worth it for the flavor. I have even heard of people keeping homemade meatballs individually quick frozen in their freezers. Someday!
And if you are looking for a good meatball recipe, consider this meatball recipe from NYC Patsy’s Restaurant, beloved since 1944!
I also considered taking some Italian sausages out of their casings and rolling into meatballs. There is an organic rancher nearby with amazing sausage that would go readily into this! You could also do sausage slices, though those might be a little harder to break up with a fork.
If you do substitute raw meatballs or sausage slices, be sure they are up to temperature (165F) before you serve this.
And the above list has vegan options as too. Then you’d just need to change our the cheese and you’d have a vegan version.
Tips and FAQs
Jarred sauces are very flavorful today and a wonderful option for cooking shortcuts. There are even lots of organic choices. For this dish, a thicker sauce will work better.
Exhausted AND in a hurry? While this recipe has very little working time, it does cook nearly an hour. And sometimes you don’t have the elapsed time to spare. In that case, you could do a microwave Italian Meatball Appetizer—or just thaw the meatballs in the microwave to get a head start.
Easy Meatball and Mozzarella Appetizer
- 16-18 ounces precooked meatballs packaged, deli or your favorite recipe
- 24 ounce pasta sauce 1 jar
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced
- 1 loaf French bread
- Place meatballs into a large lidded baking dish or casserole.
- Cover with pasta sauce.
- Bake, covered, until meatballs are warmed through (35-45 minutes from frozen, less if thawed)
- Top with slices of fresh mozzarella, then return to oven until cheese is soft and melty (about 10 minutes).
- Serve with sliced French bread
It’s time to start planning our holiday parties we all need some delicious and festive recipes to serve! Check out all these amazing holiday appetizers as part of the #FavoritePartyFood blogging event hosted by Jennifer from Take Two Tapas
FAVORITE PARTY FOODS
- Jalapeno Popper Cheese Ball from Jennifer at Take Two Tapas
- Pumpkin White Russian Cocktail from Michaela at An Affair from the Heart
- Slow Cooker Jalapeno Popper Dip from Ashley at Cheese Curd in Paradise
- Gingerbread Bundt Cake from Julie at Hostess at Heart
- Pizza Dip from Kathryn at Kathryn’s Kitchen Blog
- Snowman Cheese Ball from Liz at Eat Move Make
- Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip from Kathleen at The Fresh Cooky
- Spinach and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus from Audrey at That Recipe
- Mini Cheeseball Truffles from Teri at Our Good Life
- Everything Bagel Mini Pigs in a Blanket from Lisa at Blogghetti
- Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Potato Skins from Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball from Rebecca at Devour Dinner
- 4 Minute Spicy Garlic Shrimp from Sue at Palatable Pastime
- Easy Italian Meatball Appetizer from Inger at Art of Natural Living
- Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates from Erin at The Spiffy Cookie
- Prosciutto Wrapped Mozzarella and Basil from Karen at Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Caprese Cups from Radha at Magical Ingredients
- Cranberry Moscow Mule
- Cranberry Chicken Salad
This is a delicious one! I love how quick and easy to prepare this.
This is a great Italian dish! It’s so appetizing and I love that it can be served as a meal if one chooses!
I made these last night as an appetizer but we all sat around the pan and ended eating them up for dinner. They are so delicious!
I so get that Jennifer!
Perfect for a heavy holiday appetizer, I would eat this for dinner too! And I hear you, the season has barely begun and I’m already pooped!
Glad to hear it’s not just me Kathleen!
Love this easy appetizer, everyone loves meatballs so this is perfect!
Yes, it’s a lot of flavor for such modest effort!
I just love how you’ve made this a semi-homemade recipe beautiful enough for the holidays or any meal!
Once I found some healthier meatballs for the second time, I didn’t have any guilt about not being fully homemade!
I’ve been doing a lot of cooking lately with jarred pasta sauce and am not at all ashamed. So easy peasy.
I’m usually very much a scratch cook but jarred sauce is so easy and so good, that it’s a regular for me too.
I think I’ll save this one to make for our game day appetizer party!
Great idea Lisa!
Loving those chunks of Mozzarella. Perfect recipe….easy peasy and delicious.
Aren’t they fun (and tasty)!
We like appetizers for dinner too! And wow, this is an amazing one — loaded with flavor. Although we often make our own meatballs, we also like some of the frozen ones available in our grocery store — the ones we’ve tried have been really good quality. Fun dish — thanks.
The next time I made it, I found some more natural frozen meatballs. But I’d love to do homemade!
Sigh… I wish I could eat some prepared foods like this, especially now that good quality products can be found. This would make life do much simpler when I need something really quick and tasty. But 99 of 100 times these products have garlic… sigh again. So I will just have to man-up and make my own chicken meatballs and sauce and throw this together! Happy New Year! xo
You know I used to do six lasagnas at a time and freeze them (gotta start doing that again!) In your shoes, I’d probably do a meatball assembly line and freeze individually… Hmmm
this should’ve been obvious but i’ve never seen it before! it’s hard to resist that combination in any capacity. 🙂
Yes, it was one of those I-could-have-had-a-V-8 moments for me too Grace!
Great idea when you’re in a hurry, Inger. They look wonderful!
Happy New Year!
Thanks Barbara. Happy New Year to you as well!
These look delicious !!
I’m exhausted :/
I am enjoying the other exhausted commenters. Now I know I’m in good company! Best wishes for a great 2017 Tammy!
Phew is right! and it is always nice to have a few shortcuts up ones sleeve, these look great. Happy New Year Inger……..
Isn’t it the truth Cheri! Happy New Year to you as well!