These bite-size appetizers are loaded with the savory-sweet flavors of Parmesan, bacon, fig and toasted nuts. They make lovely appetizers for holiday cocktail parties, or delicious additions to charcuterie boards.
Each year on Christmas Eve my mother hosts a family get-together with a menu filled strictly with appetizers. I’ve already decided that these mini cheese balls will be attending the party with me. They are absolutely brimming with flavor that will satisfy both salty and sweet cravings.
There’s a lot going on ingredients-wise, but that’s what makes each little bite complex. Two creamy cheeses create the base of this recipe, and they are two of my favorites – goat cheese and mascarpone. Chopped dried figs give the cheese slightly sweet flavor, while garlic, bacon and Parmesan tip to the savory side.
Crunchy toasted nuts give balance to all that creamy, cheesy goodness. We tested this recipe with both pine nuts and walnuts. Although we liked the buttery flavor the pine nuts offered, the walnuts won as favorite. When party time arrives, I plan on making the entire batch using walnuts.
This recipe yields 36 bite-size cheese balls, which will serve a crowd and fill up an entire serving tray. If you’d like to serve a heartier portion or offer these as a cheese course with water crackers, then you could make 18 walnut-sized portions instead of 36.
Mediterranean Cheese Ball Bites
- 8 oz. 226 grams fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
- 8 oz. 226 grams mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
- 6 tablespoons 34 grams grated parmesan cheese
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 oz. cooked bacon chopped
- 6 tablespoons 84g/about 5 whole finely chopped dried figs
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups 300 grams walnuts or pine nuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add chopped walnuts or pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted. Let cool and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine cheeses, salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest, bacon, figs, parsley and black pepper. Mix with a large spoon or with your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Refrigerate at least one hour, or overnight if you prefer.
- Spoon the mixture out by the tablespoon and shape into 36 balls about 1.5 inches each. Roll in chopped nuts and refrigerate until ready to serve.