Wisconsin Cheese Curd Meatballs with Marinara Sauce

savorysweetWisconsin Specials
Besides Badgers and Green Bay Packers, cheese is Wisconsin’s next great pride. And only in Wisconsin where you can find deep-fried cheese curds in almost all sports bar in any town and local fast-food restaurants such as Culvers. They are even served at Mcdonald’s in most of its Wisconsin locations and also available at some A&W and Dairy Queen locations in the state.

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What are cheese curds made of?

Cheese curds are product of cheese making process. Before cheese are formed into blocks or wheels and aged, they start out as curds. Fresh cheese curds have a slightly rubbery texture and squeak when eaten. Hence, they are often known here in the Midwest as squeaky cheese. They squeak because the elastic protein strands in cheese curds rub against the enamel of the teeth and create the squeak.

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Cheese curds are commonly sold in most gas stations’ convenience stores in Wisconsin. The best time to buy them fresh is in the morning hours and the most popular brand that I know is Carr Valley Cheese.

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Cheese curds have come a long way to becoming our state’s most popular delicacy. So, I thought of bringing cheese curds to a kitchen challenge to test their versatility and see if they can be more than just an appetizer or snack food.

There’s few recipes I can think of turning cheese curds into a family dish but this one is the simplest and the ingredients are very common. I would suggest using a 70-30 percent meat-to-fat ratio if you can’t get an 80-20 percent for healthier choice. I used store-brand Italian breadcrumbs but if you have some old but still good to consume bread, you can just pop it in the oven and bake it on high 375F until crispy and just grind it into crumbs.

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Also, any brand of marinara sauce would work great since it has more flavor than plain tomato sauce. However, you can turn a regular tomato sauce into marinara just by adding white wine and spices such as parsley, minced garlic, oregano and honey or brown sugar.

It took me less than half an hour to gather all the ingredients and prep the meatballs since I already thawed the ground meat 2 days prior.

How did it turn out? It was comforting and delicious to serve this dish especially in the middle of winter; definitely worth trying in your kitchen. Though, cheese curds didn’t render a gooey texture compared to mozzarella (which is regularly used as meatball filling) cheese curds are more affordable, locally produced and lower in calories. One cup of mozzarella cheese has 370 calories compared to only 222 for cheese curds.

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CHEESE CURD MEATBALLS WITH MARINARA SAUCE
Yield: 20 Pcs.

Ingredients:
* ground beef – 2 lbs.
* eggs – 2
* breadcrumbs – ½ cup
* spices: ½ tsp. each (garlic powder, onion powder, ground thyme, paprika, black pepper, ground rosemary)
* salt – 1 tsp.
* cheese curds – 20-25 pcs.
* Ranch dressing – as needed
* Marinara sauce – 15-25 oz. bottle

Cooking Procedures:
1. Gather all the ingredients and make sure ground beef is fully thawed.
2. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. In a bowl, mix together ground beef, eggs, breadcrumbs, spices and salt.
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4. Form the meat mixture into a ball using 1-tbsp measuring spoon.
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5. Press each meat ball flat on your hand and place a piece of cheese curd in the middle.
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6. Fold the meat back into a ball shape to fully cover the cheese. Repeat process for all the meatballs.
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7. Place all the meatballs in a well-greased baking sheet.
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8. In two separate bowl or plate, put a dollop of ranch dressing in one and maybe ½ cup of breadcrumbs in the other.
9. Dip each meatball in the ranch dressing then roll it on breadcrumbs. Do this for the rest of the meatballs.
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10. Bake the meatballs for 10-15 minutes.
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11. Bring the marinara sauce to a boil, then add the meatballs and simmer for another 5 minutes.
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12. Best served with breadsticks or garlic bread.

Thank you for reading and happy cooking!
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