Chicago Meatball Sliders
How long have you been living in your city? I can’t believe how long I’ve been living in Chicago.
I moved here for grad school and it very quickly felt like Chicago was home. Even for a girl from south Florida who swore she would never live anywhere cold, Chicago just felt right. It still does.
These days, I find myself wondering if I would have ever discovered my love of photography, or food blogging, or heck, even running if I hadn’t moved here. Who knows, I guess. All I know is that I’m quite different than I was when I first moved here, and I owe it all to the experiences and wonderful people I’ve met.
If you haven’t visited yet, please put Chicago on your bucket list and make a trip out here, preferably in summer. 🙂 We have incredible restaurants, parks, museums, all the skyscrapers and architecture you can handle, theater, music…In short, there is never nothing to do.
Chicago’s history has always been incredibly interesting to me, and since I’m all about food, it’s no surprise that I get excited about its food history.
I was thrilled to learn about all of the classic Chicago foods like deep dish pizza, how to properly accessorize a hot dog (sans ketchup is the official Chicago way), and of course, figure out what that spicy stuff on top of Italian beef sandwiches is called.
That, my friends, is giardiniera, an Italian pickled vegetable relish and classic Chicago condiment.
It is the secret ingredient in this recipe and gives these meatballs a delicious savory kick.
Now, giardineira comes in two forms, mild and spicy. I’ve had both, and spicy is, like, S P I C Y. However, I have an almost embarrassingly low tolerance for heat, so you may just have to try both to see what you prefer. The mild variety is nice and salty and tangy. It’s a perfect mix in for meatballs and is much less intense than its spicy counterpart.
For this recipe I used what my grocer calls a “meatloaf mix” which is a blend of ground beef, pork, and veal, but I’m sure this would work just fine with all beef or even ground turkey.
This recipe does not use bread or breadcrumbs! Wahoo!
To cook them, I decided to bake the meatballs rather than fry them so that I would feel a little less guilty.
(Actually, it was because I didn’t want the mess of frying several batches of meatballs in a pan of oil, but we’ll just pretend I was being conscientious about healthier cooking methods.)
*Bonus* I also made a quick homemade tomato sauce. It’s delicious and beautiful atop these savory Chicago meatball sliders.
Here are my Top 5 Tips for Recipe Success:
- Giardiniera typically comes packed in oil. After measuring out how much giardiniera you need, strain it so that you’re not adding extra tablespoons of oil to the meatball mixture.
- The best tools to mix the meatball mixture together? Your hands – sorry! Get messy!
- Mix the ingredients together so they appear well incorporated, but do your best not to overmix. The meatballs can become tough if you overwork the mixture.
- I used an ice cream scoop and the handy dandy guides on my silicone mat to portion and form the meatballs. This helps them to be as similar in size as possible.
- For my tomato sauce, I used an Italian brand called “Pomi.” I’ve seen my Italian friends use this brand and figured it had to be legit. It is. The sauce was delicious, and I really think it was due to the quality of the crushed tomatoes. (**Not sponsored, just impressed.**)
- ***Extra tip*** When I make this recipe again, I will make my slider rolls garlic slider rolls by toasting them up with just a little bit of olive oil and garlic powder. It’s totally optional, but I know it would take these babies over the top!
If you have any questions about this recipe or the ingredients, feel free to ask me in a comment here or comment on my Instagram post. I’m happy to help!
Here’s the recipe for ya! Enjoy!
Chicago Meatball Sliders
Try these tasty Chicago Meatball Sliders at your next party! Giardiniera, a classic Chicago condiment, gives them a savory and tangy kick!
For the Meatballs
- 1 lb. "Meatloaf mix", Ground beef, pork, veal You can definitely use all beef or ground turkey if you prefer.
- 1/3 Cup Giardiniera relish Strained and finely diced if yours is in larger pieces.
- 1 Egg
- 2 TBS Parmesan Cheese
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp Parsley
- 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 12 Slider Rolls (I used King's Hawaiian brand.)
For the Tomato Sauce
- 1 Cup Crushed, finely chopped tomatoes (I used the Pomi brand.)
- 1 tsp Honey (Just trust me.)
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/4 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/8 tsp Pepper
- 12 Leaves Fresh Basil (Optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 425 F. Line a large sheet pan with foil, parchment, or a silicone baking mat.
2) In a mixing bowl, add the ground meat, giardiniera, egg, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano and pepper. Using your hands, mix everything together until the ingredients are evenly combined. Do your best not to overwork the mixture to ensure that the meatballs stay moist. *You may have noticed that this recipe doesn't call for salt. Giardiniera is plenty salty and does a great job at flavoring the meat.
3) Using a spoon (or my preferred tool, an ice cream scoop), portion 12 meatballs of equal size (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) and place them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.
4) Bake the meatballs for 17-19 minutes until completely cooked through.
For the Tomato Sauce:
5) Add 1 cup of crushed tomatoes to a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Add the honey, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper and stir. Allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes and remove it from the heat.
6) To assemble the sliders, slice each slider roll in half. (Feel free to toast them in the oven if you prefer, but it's totally optional.) Place one meatball on the bun and top with about 1 TBS of the tomato sauce. Garnish with a fresh green basil leaf for a pop of color. Top it with the top bun, and you're all set!