Every Monday, I start counting down the days until Friday. Yes, it's partly because I'm looking forward to the weekend. But it's also because Fridays are when I have more fun with my lunches. Most of the time I'm just craving something with cheese or carbs - my two loves. This week, I'm combining the two and whipping up pull apart nduja meatballs sliders. These sliders might be the fanciest sliders I've put together with sauteed peppers, nduja meatballs, melty fontina, and arugula pesto. And boy are they delicious!
Pull Apart Nduja Meatball Sliders
- 1 lb ground pork
- ¼ lb nduja
- ⅓ cup panko
- ¼ cup grated onion
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups arugula
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
- 12 dinner rolls
- 6 ounces fontina cheese sliced
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Make the meatballs. Combine ground pork with nduja, panko, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic, and egg, mixing until well combined. Shape mixture into 12 meatballs and place in a baking dish. Bake meatballs for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
- Reduce oven to 325 degrees F.
- Pour marinara sauce over meatballs and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Make the pesto. In a food processor or blender, pulse together arugula with parmesan, walnuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil until well combined. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute sliced bell pepper and onion until softened and browned, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Increase oven to 350 degrees F.
- Carefully slice dinner rolls in half down the middle, keeping the rolls intact. Place bottom half on a baking sheet and spread 3 tablespoons pesto followed by sauteed peppers and onion. Place one meatball per roll and top with sliced fontina. Place remaining bread on top.
- Combine dried basil with oregano, parsley, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Brush melted butter on top of bread and sprinkle herb mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve while hot.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Ever since I saw nduja on the internet, I knew I had to try it. What is nduja? It's an Italian spicy sausage that's spreadable. The closest comparison I can think of is chorizo except nduja is softer and spicier thanks to the Calabrian chilies. I looked far and wide for this sausage and once I found it, I knew I had to incorporate it into a recipe.
And so here we are. These pull apart nduja meatballs sliders use nduja in the meatball mix to add an element of heat. If you can't find this particular sausage, you can substitute it with chorizo, but the end result won't exactly be the same.
Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs and mix until well combined. Before you cook the meatballs, go ahead and cook a small amount on a frying pan. This way, you can check the seasoning and adjust it as needed before making the whole batch.
Shape and bake the meatballs for 10 minutes. Then, cover them in marinara sauce and continue to bake them at a lower oven temperature.
While the meatballs are cooking, make the pesto. All you have to do is blend everything together until smooth and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Easy peasy! You can also make the arugula pesto up to 5 days in advance.
Next, heat oil in a saute pan and saute sliced bell peppers and onion until softened and slightly charred. Remove the vegetables from the pan and let them cool.
Now it's time to assemble the pull apart nduja meatball sliders. Slice a pack of 12 rolls in half. Try to keep the rolls intact while you assemble the sliders.
Place the bottom bun on a lined baking sheet and top them with pesto, sauteed peppers and onions, meatballs, and fontina.
If your rolls are very soft, I recommend toasting the bottom bun before piling on the fillings. There's a lot of sauce from the pesto to the meatballs so it can get soggy if the bread is too soft.
Stack the other bread slice on top and brush the tops with melted butter. Sprinkle a generous amount of the herb and garlic seasoning on top and pop the sliders in the oven.
Bake the pull apart nduja meatball sliders for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is beautifully melted. Then, remove them from the oven and carefully pull apart the sliders. You can wait a couple of minutes before tearing in because the cheese will be very hot.
To say my cheese and carb cravings were satisfied would be an understatement. These sliders delivered so much more! The nduja meatballs were tender with the perfect amount of spice while the sweet peppers and herby pesto added more flavor. You really can't go wrong with a combo like this!
For more sandwich inspiration check out this ribeye sandwich with jalapeno pesto and white cheese sauce!