A new slider-themed restaurant, SliderBar, recently opened up in our neighborhood. I really like the restaurant, and I was inspired to make my own sliders when I found adorable mini hamburger buns at Trader Joe's. I adapted a meatball sub recipe from Cooking Light, and totally fell in love with these tiny sandwiches! Not only are these sliders cute, but they are also really flavorful. You've got tender, tasty meatballs, peppers and onions, creamy fresh mozzarella, and toasty buns, all brought together with marinara sauce - use a brand you know you like to save time.
Although this recipe has quite a few steps, each one is simple and all the ingredients 'hold' well so there's no last-minute scramble to get everything on the plate while it's still hot. I love the method of making meatballs in the broiler - standing over a hot skillet flipping meatballs is never my favorite task, and this way is easier, less messy, and also a little healthier (no oil needed beyond a little spray on the pan). The meatballs can hang out in simmering marinara while you finish cooking the peppers and onions and toast the buns. Plan on 2-4 sliders per person, depending on how hungry you are and what sides you plan to serve. If you have leftovers, the peppers and onions can be tossed in with the meatballs and sauce to make a great topping for pasta or polenta. I also think it would be a ton of fun to make these as finger food for a party - they're a little messy, but the small size would make them a great party bite.
Meatball Sliders (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4-6 (depending on your sides and appetite)
12 ounces ground beef (90% lean is ideal)
1/3 cup panko
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1-1/3 cups marinara sauce
2 bell peppers or 5 mini bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
16 mini hamburger buns - as small as possible as the meatballs are little!
2-3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced into 16 small squares
1. Preheat the broiler to high. Line broiler pan with foil and spray with oil.
2. Combine the meat, panko, egg, salt, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl. Mix gently. Form into 16 meatballs. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the foil-lined pan. Broil 6 inches from the heat for 7 minutes, turning the meatballs once.
3. While the meatballs are cooking, put the marinara sauce in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat until warm. When the meatballs are cooked, add to the marinara sauce and simmer until ready to use.
4. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil and swirl to coat the pan - you don't need much. Add the onions, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add the peppers and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and browned.
5. Replace the foil on the broiler pan with clean foil. Arrange the buns cut-side-up in a single layer - you might have to work in batches. Spray with a little cooking spray, and then broil two minutes until toasted.
6. Place the bun tops on a plate, and then assemble the sliders on the bottom buns. Top each bottom bun with a forkful of the pepper-onion mixture, a meatball, a spoonful of sauce, and a slice of mozzarella. Broil about 2 minutes until the cheese is melted. Top each slider with a top bun and serve!