Here’s a little secret for entertaining guests this holiday ― delicious food does not have to be complicated or fancy for folks to enjoy it. Sometimes a simple twist on a familiar treat is all it takes to create a memorable dish that has your guests talking.
Case in point, a few summers ago I was throwing a backyard BBQ in Brooklyn. I was in charge of the grill and my guests (many of whom were professional chefs) were in charge of the appetizers and sides. To all of our surprise, the showstopper of the night was made by a lawyer with a very limited skillset in the kitchen. She made a pizza dip that was not only devoured, but it’s still talked about to this day by those same chefs who spend their days creating Michelin-starred food.
With that same focus on simplicity and classic flavor combinations, I offer a pizza cheese ball as a perfect side to entertain your guests this holiday season. I love a good cheese ball because it’s simple to create, can be done in advance and gives everyone something to nibble on while sipping a drink and enjoying each other’s company.
Traditionally, a cheese ball is made with cream cheese, cheddar, a dash of hot sauce and Worcestershire. It’s then covered in pecans and served with crackers. In this version, I use marinara in place of the hot sauce and Worcestershire, mozzarella in lieu of cheddar cheese and add dried oregano to really hit those Italian flavors. Lastly, I replace those crackers with super simple parmesan breadsticks that come together with just 3 ingredients and help from the store.
Save yourself some time on appetizers this year while still keeping your guests happy. Make this the night before, throw it in the fridge and serve it while you focus on cooking dinner and entertaining your guests.
Pizza Cheese Ball With Pizza Crust Breadsticks
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup jarred marinara sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish
1/4 cup chopped basil, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a stand mixer with wire whisk attachment, beat together until evenly combined cream cheese, mozzarella, marinara, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder.
3. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes to harden.
4. Meanwhile, roll out pizza dough on a floured surface into an 18-inch x 6-inch rectangle. Cut into even strips and place on a parchment-lined baking tray.
5. Brush breadsticks with butter and sprinkle with parmesan. Put in oven and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
6. After the cheese mixture has chilled, use your hands to shape it into a large ball.
7. Combine chopped parsley and basil in a shallow bowl. Roll chilled cheese ball in herbs and place on a serving tray. Serve with the breadsticks.