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Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette Salad & Italian Meatballs (Centros Copycat)

Italian meatballs smothered in sauce along with a creamy salad packed with cheese, garbanzo beans, red onion and roasted red peppers. The creamy vinaigrette recipe has a touch of sweet and with the savory roasted garlic all in one. It might even be considered a Caesar salad substitute and lower fat option. A comforting homemade meal that’s as delicious as going out.

My husband treated me to Centro’s downtown Des Moines, and we ordered the 'Mama's Meatballs' appetizer. He’s NOT a salad guy, but I’m telling you we argued over who got the last few bites. Since then I've been working on creating this copycat recipe.

An appetizer to them, but a main course at this house. It’s so much fun to recreate a favored dish at home, and this one is definitely a favorite.


The Meatballs

Meatballs are such an easy recipe, and most parts of this dish can be prepared ahead of time. You can beef up this meal with a bed of butter and parmesan spaghetti, but I’m telling you…. It doesn’t need it.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix/mash. I use a hand mixer because touching the raw meat slightly freaks me out. And if I need to do something for my kids at a moments notice, the raw meat doesn’t fare well for them or my house.

Once you mix and form into the desired size meatball, I place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and broil them. Once they were browned I turned them over and brown the other side.

Meanwhile I put 24 oz of tomato sauce in a skillet to start simmering. Carefully dunk the meatballs into the sauce and cover with a lid. Simmer on low for 30-45 minutes {whatever is convenient for timing your meal out}.

Move them around once in awhile to make sure no sticking / burning is going on.


The Salad

The salad dressing takes some time with the roasting the garlic, so its easiest to do this ahead of time. It seems like a LOT of garlic, but trust me, its worth it! Just place the garlic, soaked in olive oil in some tin foil, wrap it up, and roast at 375 for half hour or until soft.

Dressing Goodies:

Place all the ingredients in a mason jar and use an immersion blender, or regular blender, to puree it all up. My garlic was still warm when I did this and it made no difference.

You can also roast the chickpeas in oil as well, just throw them in the oven also until desired crispiness.

Salad Goodies:

Assemble the salad and pour the dressing over at the time of serving.


Salad Ingredients

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed & chopped

  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red pepper, chopped

  • 1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained. Bonus points if you coat them in oil and fry until crunchy.

  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup parmesan, or asiago cheeses

Dressing Ingredients

  • 15 garlic cloves

  • 1/3 cup avocado oil

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

  • 2 T water

  • 1 T Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp pepper

Dressing Instructions:

  1. Place garlic cloves in tin foil drizzled with olive oil, wrap up, and place in oven at 375 for 30 minutes or until soft.

  2. Place all ingredients in pint jar and use an immersion blender, or regular blender, to puree until combined.

  3. Pour dressing onto salad at time of serving

Meatball ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal, pulsed in food processor (can substitute with bread crumbs)

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 egg

  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoon Italian seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon pepper

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmasean cheese

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Meatball Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use cookie scoop and spoon on to cookie sheet.

  2. Place under broiler on high until browned on all sides.

  3. Then place meatballs in a deep skillet and cover with tomato sauce, homemade or store-bought.

  4. Cover and simmer on low for 30-45 minutes.


Enjoy it while it lasts!


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