Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders


These Meatball Sliders are the result of taking juicy, flavorful Italian meatballs, bathing them in rich, zesty marinara, smothering them in mozzarella and cocooning them in hollowed out toasted garlic butter rolls. drool.    Because meatball sliders on Hawaiian rolls + cheese + marinara =  UNFORGETTABLE! 

up close of meatball slider with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce


Meatball Sliders

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and are excited to ring in the New Year with all sorts of party food like these Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders!  They are guaranteed to be the hit of the night – any night you serve them – and are truly one of my favorite appetizers/meals of all time (look for my 2017 Favorite’s Post later this week!).

Because really, do meatball sliders get any better than amazingly tender, flavor exploding, meatballs bathed in aromatic sauce and blanketed with hot, gooey mozzarella cheese?!   Maybe only if the meatballs and sauce were self contained in a hollowed out roll so everything doesn’t spill out sloppy Joe style but instead you devour your layers of buttery toasted roll and cheesy meatball in every saucy contained bite!

pulling a meatball slider away from the tray with a string of goeey mozzarella cheese

This brilliant idea of creating a meatball pocket comes from Tasty’s Meatball Sliders Recipe FB video.  I was mesmerized by this method and so excited to try it out but I didn’t want to follow the video’s meatball and marinara sauce recipe – because they were lacking – and I will never share anything that isn’t the best possible version for my awesome readers – so I slightly adapted the meatballs and marina from my favorite Baked Italian Meatball Skillet and I can’t wait for you to devour the satisfyingly decadent results!

a tray of Italian Meatball Sliders with marinara, mozzarella and fresh parsley

How to Make Meatball Sliders

  • For this Meatball Sliders Recipe, we start with a package of Hawaiian Sweet Rolls.  Instead of slicing them in half like most slider recipes, we cut out a circle in the top of each slider.
  • To remove the hole filling, I find it easiest to press down on the dough hole you’ve just cut, and then pull the hole back up.  This separates the dough so as you pull it back out, you are left with a hollow space for the meatball.  Keep in mind that the meatball will be large and is not meant to fit entirely inside the hole, rather just the bottom half of the meatball will be cradled in the hole.
showing how to make meatball sliders by cutting the tops out of Hawaiian rolls
showing how to make meatball sliders by hollowing out Hawaiian rolls
  • Next, we whisk together butter with some dried parsley and garlic powder and envelop the inside and outside of the rolls.  Feel free to use fresh garlic and parsley (you’ll need 3X the mount of dried) but I prefer dried for more even distribution.
showing how to make meatball sliders by buttering the inside of Hawaiian rolls with butter, parsley and garlic
  • We bake for 10 minutes to achieve beautifully toasted buttery, garlic bread flavor and texture.  This toasting also helps our Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders from becoming soggy even after becoming saucy with marinara smothered meatballs.
showing how to make meatball sliders by baking Hawaiian rolls until golden

the Best Meatballs for Meatball Sliders

  • Next, the BEST meatballs in. the. world.  These Italian meatballs are truly the star of this Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders recipe with their wonderfully soft and tender texture, an entire ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the perfect amount of seasonings.
  • While we brown them in some oil, we simmer our Marinara Arrabbiata Sauce.  To make this Marinara, you simply whisk all your pantry friendly ingredients in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes. You can substitute with jarred marinara if you are in a pinch, but I guarantee this homemade version is super simple and waaaaaay better and about to become your go-to marinara for everything.
  • Marinara Arabbiata or sugo all’arrabbiata in Italian, is a spicy tomato sauce and this one is wonderfully rich, seasoned to perfection and tastes like its been simmering all day.  It does have a kick of heat so if you don’t like heat or want to make this extra kid friendly, then I would reduce the red pepper flakes to ¼ teaspoon.  I used ½ teaspoon and it was perfect for my medium spicy palate and subdued by all the cheeeeeese and cocoon of garlicky rolls.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked, you add the marinara sauce to the skillet and gently coat the meatballs then place a coated meatball in each roll hole and top with some of the remaining sauce.
showing how to make meatball sliders by stuffing Italian meatballs into Hawaiian rolls
  • Finally, we top with cheese…
showing how to make meatball sliders by topping meatballs with cheese
  • Bake for 5-10 minutes to achieve ooey gooey cheesiliciousness.
showing how to make meatball sliders by baking sliders until cheese melts
far away view of meatball sliders on Hawaiian buns

How to Prep Meatball Sliders in Advance

These Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders are best served right away while the cheese is still melty but they also make delicious leftovers.  If you are looking to make them in advance for a party or dinner, you can do most of the prep ahead and then just assemble when ready to serve.

  • You can prep your rolls entirely.  Just be sure to let them cool after toasting then store in their original packaging so they don’t get stale.
  • You can make the marinara sauce completely beforehand and refrigerate then warm in the microwave or stove before assembling.
  • For the meatballs, you can roll them all beforehand and store in the refrigerator.  For the moistest meatballs, I suggest cooking them when ready to assemble so they are not “cooked” twice.  They will still be delicious if cooked and reheated but they will be the very best if just cooked and served.
  • Lastly, you can have all your cheese shredded and ready to go!
top up close view of best meatball slider on a Hawaiian roll

Now dig into these ridiculously delicious Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders.  They might be one of your favorite bites of 2017!

up close view of pulling an Italian meatball sliders on Hawaiian roll away from tray with gooey cheese


meatball slider on a Hawaiian roll with a bite taken out of it with cheese and marinara


Pin them to your APPETIZER, PARTY, DINNER, MEAT or ITALIAN Board to SAVE for later!

Find me on Pinterest for more great recipes!  I am always pinning :)!

©Carlsbad Cravings by

These Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders are my favorite party food ever and my family loves them for dinner!  The meatballs are the BEST (so tender and juicy!) and the marinara is amazing and I love how they are individual sliders instead of meatball subs!  I can't recommend these enough! 

Cheesy Stuffed Italian Meatball Sliders

Irresistible, melt-in-your-mouth Cheesy Italian Meatball Sliders for a party, game day or dinner win!  The BEST juicy, flavorful Italian meatballs are bathed in rich, zesty marinara, smothered in mozzarella and cocooned in hollowed out toasted garlic butter rolls for the most palate pleasing sliders ever! 
Servings: 12 sliders
Total Time: 40 minutes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box

You can now create an account on our site and save your favorite recipes all in one place!



  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried basil, garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried rosemary, salt, pepper

Marinara Arrabbiata

  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar to taste
  • 1 tsp EACH garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, pepper
  • 1/4 tsp EACH dried thyme, dried rosemary
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Cut a large hole into the top of each Hawaiian roll (see above photos) in order to fit a meatball later. Press down on the dough hole and then remove the hole of dough to create a space for the meatball.
  • Whisk together melted butter, 1 teaspoon dried parsley and ½ teaspoon garlic powder. Brush the insides and outside of the rolls with the butter mixture.
  • Bake rolls at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes then set aside.
  • Meanwhile, stir together all of the Marinara Arrabbiata ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Decrease heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes then keep warm on low until ready to use, stirring occasionally. Mash tomatoes to reach desired consistency (optional).
  • Meanwhile, make meatballs by whisking egg in a large bowl. Add all remaining meatball ingredients. Using clean hands, gently mix everything until well-blended. Be careful not to overmix or your meatballs will be tough. Roll dough into 12 equal meatballs.
  • Add 2 tablespoon olive oil to a large nonstick skillet and heat over medium heat. Add meatballs to skillet and brown on all sides. Once cooked through, remove pan from heat and CAREFULLY add Marinara Sauce so it doesn’t spit and splatter. Gently coat meatballs in sauce.
  • Place each meatball and some sauce into each bread hole (the entire meatball will not fit in the hole – only the bottom of the meatball will sit in the hole). Top meatballs with more sauce then evenly top with mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired. Best served immediately.

Prep Ahead

  • You can prep your rolls entirely according to instructions.  After baking, let them cool then store in their original packaging so they don’t get stale.
  • You can make the marinara sauce completely beforehand according to instructions and refrigerate then warm in the microwave or stove before assembling.
  • For the meatballs, you can roll them all beforehand and store in the refrigerator.  For the moistest meatballs, I suggest cooking them when ready to assemble so they are not “cooked” twice.  They will still be delicious if cooked and reheated but they will be the very best if just cooked and served.
  • Lastly, you can have all your cheese shredded and ready to go!

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

©Carlsbad Cravings Original inspired by this FB video

Looking for more party food for a crowd?

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Debbie says

    These are definitely going on the New Year’s Eve menu! I’ve mad your Baked Skillet Meatballs and my boys inhaled them so I know these will be just as good! Thanks for your wonderful recipes – I haven’t made one we haven’t loved yet!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for your awesome comment Debbie! I am so happy your family is enjoying my recipes – yay! and I am so glad you’ve made and loved the Skillet Meatballs – they are one of my favs! If you loved those you will definitely love these! Can’t wait for you to make them!

  2. Wendy says

    Your recipe looks delicious!! This recipe would be perfect for New Years Day. Love the hollowed out rolls.

    • Jen says

      Thank you Wendy! I can’t wait for you to try them! Happy New Year!

  3. MaryVance says

    I have made some of your other recipes, and they never fail to be delicious. This looks amazing! I think my brothers will love these sliders!! Is the entire amount of sauce called for in the recipe used to coat and top the meatballs, or is there any left over?

    Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Hi Mary, You will add the meatballs to the sauce and stir them around and then add the “saucy” meatballs to the sliders. There will still be some sauce left in the pan but not a whole lot – I hope that helps!

      • MaryVance says

        Thanks! I ended up halving the sauce (we aren’t real saucy people! ;)), but I think next time I’ll do 3/4 of the full amount. My family loved these sliders! This is by far the best meatball recipe I’ve tried. I tossed the “insides” of the rolls in the same butter mixture and toasted them, and that was amazing also! Thanks for the great recipes! They are becoming family favorites.

        • Jen says

          “Best meatball recipe” is quite the compliment, thank you so much for making my day! I’m thrilled these were a hit and tossing the insides of the rolls and toasting them sounds wonderful!

  4. Dennis says

    This looks great. What do you do with the bread that you remove from the rolls?

  5. Gail says

    AMAZING!!!!! Wow this is the best meatball recipe. I thought I made a killer meatball but yours surpassed mine!! My husband loved this recipe and the meatballs as well as I did. I am definitely replacing my recipe with this one. Looking forward to more of your delicious recipes thanks for sharing!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for the high praise Gail! I’m thrilled this recipe has become your new go-to favorite!

    • Michele1L says

      Call me crazy, but I put the “roll-holes” in the food processor, made “bread crumbs” added a pinch of Italian seasoning and used it in the meatballs. I read the recipe and instructions 3 times before making it. So, on the 3rd read, it just popped right out at me! I cut the rolls and prep meatballs the day before.
      Your little meatball sliders have been my “go-to” for Superbowl for a few years now. I make 4 to 6 dozen and the party still want more! Thanks for this delicious little crowd-pleaser!

      • Jen says

        That is a brilliant idea! I love that these Meatball Sliders are a repeat staple and huge hit, thank you!

  6. Jamie says

    Is there a way you’d recommend keeping these in a crock pot? These look delish for a potluck.

    • Jen says

      Hi Jamie, you can transfer the cooked meatballs and sauce to the crockpot after step 7 and keep on the “warm” setting until ready to stuff into the rolls. Enjoy!

  7. Jennifer says

    Jen! These look amazing! I was wondering though if you think I can get away doing them with regular hamburger rolls? I couldn’t find any gluten free sliders and I searched everywhere. I just don’t know if it’ll be a big mushy mess. Just wondering what you think!!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Jennifer, sorry for the delay as I’ve been playing catchup from vacation! You can absolutely use hamburger rolls but they will be messier – but still delicious!