Have you ever have one of those bites of food that you keep in your mouth to savor as long as possible before swallowing? That kind of bite that you know you’ll keep in your memory for a very long time and you just don’t want it to end? The kind of bite that tastes infinitely better when you are able to share it with other people and follow each bite with a delicate sip of perfectly paired wine, that tastes better when you eat it outdoors in perfect sunny weather? The kind of bite you talk about for years to come (remember those goat cheese balls…? and that wine…? and that weather…? and you all stare into space remembering that moment).
These Oven-Baked Goat Cheese Balls with Fresh Basil and Honey are just that kind of bite. The kind of multi-level taste that just keeps going and going until you finally get the gumption to swallow. A puffy, melty pillow of tangy goat cheese mixed with fresh basil and sweet, pure honey, coated by a crunchy, warm, oven-fried panko layer and drizzled with more honey and garnished with more fresh basil.
Good Lord, these are good.
Now. Make no mistake- these are delicious if you dive into them all by yourself huddled around your kitchen island trying to take photographs of them for a blog post but you just can’t seem to wait so you keep taking nibbles of them (or scraping the bowl with a spoon from the mixture of goat cheese, basil, and honey with your finger… this may or may not have happened during the making of this recipe).
But I believe that delicious food can be enhanced by
two three things: 1) people to share it with, 2) a good wine paired specifically to that food, and 3) if you are lucky, beautiful weather so you can dine al fresco.
I don’t want to tell you want to do, because you are an adult and can make your own decisions. But I will anyway. Next time you need an appetizer- whether it’s for a party or for a fancy dinner for two- you NEED to make these goat cheese balls. Preferably with a nice cold glass of white wine. And if possible, you NEED to eat them outside in perfect sunny spring weather.
Between the wine and these tiny, tasty beauties, it’s really easy to throw an elegant spring soirée without much effort. This recipe is easy to make, and best of all, the goat cheese balls can be made and assembled days- even weeks!- before baking, since they are meant to be frozen. That means that before your guests come over all you have to do is pop them in the oven and worry about more important things.
This brings me to a key point: the goat cheese balls MUST be frozen before baking for at least thirty minutes. Why? Goat cheese is soft- very soft- and will become melty very quickly in the oven. If you freeze them before baking, it ensures that the outside gets nice and toasted and golden brown, without the cheese melting too much. They will stay together and retain their shape if you freeze them before. So, make sure you take this into account when you are making them in terms of timing.
First, mix together some goat cheese, fresh basil, honey, salt, and pepper in a bowl. I found it easiest to mash the ingredients together using a fork to break up the cheese easily, and transitioning to a spoon when the cheese was fully broken up.
Then, measure equal portions of the cheese mixture, rolling them into balls, dipping them in an egg wash and then in panko bread crumbs. I recommend using a small cookie scoop for this task- it will ensure that each of the balls are measured equally and help form them into near perfect spheres. I love the panko bread crumbs with this because they are so light, crispy, and airy, even if they technically are a more refined ingredient. If you want, you could certainly use whole wheat bread crumbs for a healthier option or even ground up nuts (like pecans) as a grain free option.
Place the balls on a parchment covered rimmed baking sheet (rimmed is important here- they are balls, so they may roll around as you transport them!) and place the whole sheet in the freezer for at least thirty minutes. At this point, you can transfer them to an airtight container or zip top bag and take them out when you are ready to bake (keep them frozen for up to three months!). When you are ready to bake, simply brush the tops with olive oil and bake for about ten minutes at 475 degrees. Take them out of the oven when they are just golden brown, and allow them to rest for a few minutes before transferring them to a serving dish (they will be very soft when they first come out and difficult to move without smushing them).
Now for the best part: drizzle them with some extra honey and garnish with some more fresh basil. Absolutely the most amazing, delicious morsels in the world!
And while these are great for an appetizer, they are also fabulous atop a fresh salad. Try arugula dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
I like to cut a chiffonade of basil for the garnish. It’s SO easy, but looks super fancy.
Recipe below- enjoy!
Oven-Baked Goat Cheese Balls with Basil and Honey
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix together goat cheese, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of the basil, and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Mashing together with a fork can help break up the cheese more effectively.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl and add the panko (1/2 cup) into another small bowl.
- Measure equal amounts (about 1 teaspoon) of the goat cheese mixture and roll into balls to make 14-16 total balls. As you make each, dip into the egg to coat, then the panko, and place on the parchment covered rimmed baking sheet.
- Place baking sheet in freezer for thirty minutes.
- While the goat cheese balls are cooling, preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Brush tops of the balls with the olive oil and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until just golden brown.
- Allow to rest for at least five minutes before transferring to a serving tray.
- Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of honey and garnish with remaining tablespoon of fresh basil.
- Panko substitution: Whole wheat bread crumbs, or ground up pecans (or other nuts) can be used for a healthier/grain-free option, if desired.
- Make ahead instructions: If making days (or weeks) in advance, after freezing for thirty minutes transfer to a zip top bag or airtight container and freeze for up to three months.
- The provided nutrition information does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. Feel free to calculate it yourself using this calculator or by adding the recipe to Yummly.