Nik’s “Magic” Meatballs

What’s in a meatball? When you make Nik’s…a whole lot!

I know a lot of you buy your meatballs at the grocery store. It’s convenient, I know. There are many brands that have turkey and lean beef and they are quite tasty. I don’t tend to buy pre-packaged meatballs, though. Why?

(Broken record in 5, 4, 3, 2…) Well first off, because I like my cooking better! Secondly, because meatballs are something we only eat when we’re in the mood for them. And sometimes there’s a stretch between when the mood hits us. And while the food industry has gotten really good at improving their packaging, somehow I can’t seem to escape freezer fuzz with my meatballs!

Besides the fact that my recipe comes out cheaper than store bought meatballs (thanks Aldi!). Oh, yeah, and there’s the magic part. Yes, they are magic meatballs. What makes them magical? Well, to me, good magic is very unassuming. It’s a surprise where you never expected it to be. Something that looks like nothing but is really something.

Such is the case with my meatballs. They look like regular meatballs with regular meatball stats. But then you eat one and not only is there a surprise inside, but there’sĀ a surprise in the stats. So…without further adieu…I present…

Nik’s Magic Meatballs


1 lb. lean meat (turkey, beef, whatever…)
1 package onion soup mix
1/2 c. Textured Vegetable Protein (if you’re going, “what’s that?” click here)
2 light mozzarella string cheese sticks, cut into 6 equal pieces
1 extra large egg, beaten

Ok…so that’s not a lot of ingredients right? Let’s make the magic happen. First off…string cheese? Yep, string cheese! Who wants to take a crack at what that means? It means my meatballs are STUFFED.

I saw on some Bobby Flay cooking show (he has a million of ’em) a recipe for stuffed hamburgers. Well me and hamburgers don’t get along so I decided to try to stuff something else. For me, the choice was clear. I was stuffing my meatball. So here’s how it goes down.

In a bowl you combine the meat and the TVP and let it sit for a minute or two. The TVP will soak up excess moisture in the meat. If you use super lean meat, add a litte milk to the mixture to keep some moisture. I usually go for a nice 85/15 ratio myself.

After that add the onion soup mix and the egg and mix it very thoroughly. Now…here comes the fun part. Scoop up a bit of meat in your hand and form into a little half moon shape and then stick a piece of the cheese in the middle and surround it with meat, like so:

Make sure there are no gaping holes or you will lose your cheese in the cooking process! So keep doing that until you’ve got about 12 meatballs. As you roll them, you’re placing them on a sprayed baking sheet of course. Here’s mine all lined up. Don’t laugh at the ancient baking sheet. It belonged to my granpa!
I should also say that if your kids are old enough, this is a TOTALLY interactive meal prep. My 8 year old was a meatball rolling fool for this blog post.
S’anyway, you stick them in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. You see above how they come out. On the outside it looks like a regular meatball but on the inside…mmmm…warm cheesiness. Now…what to do with your meatballs. You can put them in any sauce you like. Back in the day, I liked the cream of mushroom type sauce. My kids, however, like to make mini-meatball subs by putting three of these in a hot dog bun. Check out the pic la petite diva took of her meal that night:
Awww…my little budding photog! As you can see I serve this with a side salad. It’s on a dinner sized plate (somehow all my salad sized ones have gone missing) and the salad is devoid of the tomatoes I made her add five seconds later.
Ok, so let’s talk stats here. My whole recipe comes out to 1040 calories (without sauce), 134g protein. If you make 12 meatballs that would come out to about 86 calories, 11g protein per meatball. So even if you only ate one…you are WAY ahead of the game!
So, try them. Let us know what you think. They are a favorite in my household and I’m sure you’ll find a way to make them one in yours too!


  1. I am SO making these this weekend.

  2. Definitely going to try this!! šŸ˜€ Thanks!!

  3. I made this kind of meatballs last week, they were awesome! My hubby loved the cheesy surprise middle!

  4. Woohoo!! I have mine baking in the oven right now!! I used Bison meat so I'm excited to see how they taste!! šŸ˜€

  5. This is what my Mom did with meatloaf when I was a kid – surprise mozzarella in the middle! YUM šŸ™‚

  6. Mozzarella sounds good. I use feta cheese with mine….good too:)

  7. Funny that I made meatballs tonight. I served them oven baked, with buttered egg noodles & steamed carrots. The meatballs were good, don't get me wrong, cuz I like my own cooking too, but because I was too tired to go through my regular to-do's, I made them plainly. With all the cheese I keep stocked in our fridge, I don't know how it's never occurred to me to stuff 'em.

    I will DEFINITELY be remembering this post the next time I make a tray of meatballs, which, like you say, may come after ANOTHER stretch of time.


    (BTW, I'm totally grabbing your badge for my site.)

  8. Would cheddar cheese sticks work as good as those mozz cheese?


  9. Not sure but it sounds yummy. Play with your food and find out!

  10. These sound yummy! Do you know the carb count for each meatball? Thanks for all the great recipes!!!

  11. Well thanks! I think they are yummy.

    Because nutrition information can vary depending on what ingredients YOU use, I defer to you to run the "stats" on a recipe before making it to see how it would come out with the ingredients in your kitchen.

    But since there are no breadcrumbs in the meatballs I can say about the only thing that has any carbs is a small amount in the TVP, a teeny tiny bit in the soup mix (although you're not using that much) and a small amount in the cheese. But that's it! The rest is protein and, depending on the type of ground meat you use, fat.

  12. Nik,

    I love your site and your recipes!

    This was my most recent try and there were two things I noticed

    1. My meatballs were a little hard (rubbery?). I used mostly ground beef and mixed in a little ground turkey.
    2. My cheese in the middle was not gooey or melty.

    Could I have cooked them too long? Not long enough? I'm new to cooking so any tips would be great!

  13. You ever have where in your head you could swear you responded to something but find out it isn't so. That's the case here! So. Two things:

    #1: Did you use very lean ground beef? (90% or above)? If so that may be the culprit. TVP sucks up moisture to rehydrate itself so if there was only a bit of fat in the meat it probably got a bit tough. I suggest using no leaner than 80% for anything with TVP.

    #2: Not sure about the cheese. Mine never gets gooey so much as it gets soft so I'll say if you give it another go, let the cheese get to room temperature before putting them in the meatball. That ought to help!

    In the end sometimes it just takes a few tries for a recipe. Or you might need to tweak it to make it your own! I encourage that. But if you do you know you have to email me to let me see how it went!

  14. Why do you need the TVP?

  15. Hi Stacey,

    I use TVP because it increases the protein count in the meatball without increasing the volume of the meatball. So the meatball is the same size, with more protein.

    But if you don't like it or want to use it, leave it out. Play with your food! šŸ™‚

    Hope that helps.

  16. ACK, the TVP link doesn’t work. Any suggestions on where we can find more information on it?

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