As March Madness draws nigh, you’ve probably paid a lot of attention to your brackets, but what about your game day menus? Ordering pizza is always a fine choice, and whipping up a plate of nachos takes no time at all, but if you want to get a bit more creative—say, for a weekend viewing party—one option is to take inspiration from basketball fever and embrace spherical foods.
That’s right, an all-ball menu! (Deepest apologies if that phrase triggers traumatic memories of hearing Koko the gorilla’s All Ball the kitten story in grade school. You’re not alone. Perhaps these upgraded versions of your favorite college drinks will help? You need something to wash down your snacks anyway.)
When it comes to basketball-shaped foods, nature provides some suitably round ingredients—brussels sprouts, sort of; baby new potatoes; globe grapes—but it may be easier to take matters into your own hands. You can make anything into a meatball, so that covers the main course, should you desire a full meal. But here are some ideas for party-perfect spherical snacks that are good for pretty much any occasion, basketball-related or not, but especially great for watching NCAA games!
However, fair warning: there happens to be a lot of cheese in this lineup, both literally and figuratively.
A regular size cheese ball (or a huge cheese ball, for that matter) is just as appropriate, but there’s always something more fun about smaller versions of things, and food is no exception. You can take these in any flavor direction you like, from ranch to blue cheese-pecan to Doritos-covered, but this combination of bacon, jalapeños, and pimento cheese from Five Heart Home is a definite slam dunk. In any case, use pretzel rods to impale them and you have a handy holder that’s also edible. Get the Mini Cheese Balls recipe.
If you prefer your cheese warm and gooey, make fried mac and cheese balls, like these from Foodie Crush. Again, they’re adaptable; jazz ’em up with salsa verde, chopped chiles, blue cheese and Red Hot, or whatever you like. Just provide plenty of toothpicks for preventing any loose ball party fouls. Get the Fried Mac and Cheese Balls recipe.
Bisquick, cheese, and sausage combine to form hearty little bites from Unsophisticook. They’re reminiscent of boudin balls, and perfect for dipping in all sorts of sauce, from homemade ranch to extra Sriracha. If you worry about your floors, just tell people no traveling with the (sausage) ball. Get the Sriracha Sausage Cheddar Balls recipe.
You can always skip the cheese in these if you prefer, or swap it out for something else like chopped sun-dried tomatoes or olives, but either way, hummus provides a perfect assist. Get our Feta Stuffed Falafel recipe.
If you’d like to sneak in a few more veggies with your cheese, these broccoli-packed cheddar balls from Recipe Tin Eats are a perfect choice. Expect people to post up next to these, thanks in no small part to the accompanying lemon yogurt sauce. Get the Baked Broccoli Cheese Balls recipe.
If you want a break from the cheese entirely, try these sweet potato balls from Roti and Rice. (They tick off the vegan and gluten-free boxes too.) You can apply the same principle to regular mashed potatoes, but for March Madness shindigs, the natural orange color of sweet potatoes obviously makes these crisp-chewy wok-fried snacks a top seed pick. Get the Sweet Potato Balls recipe.
Just because meatballs are an obvious choice doesn’t mean they’re not a fantastic one. You can craft all kinds of meatballs with a basic formula, but these enchilada-sauced examples from Platings and Pairings are great for snacking on or folding into tacos for a fuller meal. They’ll be messy, so assemble plenty of napkins—or hire a guy to mop the sauce off your floor in between
plays bites. Get the Meatballs in Enchilada Sauce (Albondigas) recipe.
These sozzled tomatoes from Family Fresh Meals are perfect for those weekend morning games! While really great grape tomatoes aren’t quite in season yet, once you marinate anything in a spicy vodka mixture—and add a lemon-pepper-celery dipping salt to boot—it’s going to taste good. (You could try mixing these with our marinated bocconcini too, for something a bit more substantial.) Get the Boozy Bloody Mary Tomato Bombs recipe.
Another natural pick for early games, these vodka-macerated melon balls from Healthy Nibbles and Bits can also roll with the dessert options. Stick with cantaloupe alone if you’re committed to the vaguely orange food color scheme. Get the Vodka Infused Melon Balls recipe.
There are at least a Sweet 16 of spherical desserts to choose from—all manner of truffles, popcorn balls, basketball cake balls, buckeyes (especially fitting if you’re pulling for Ohio State)—but Brazilian brigadeiros are incredibly simple to make, and take well to rolling in sprinkles, so if you can find some orange nonpareils, you’re all set up for an easy win! Put ’em in paper cups a la Gluten Free on a Shoestring and they kind of look like basketballs in nets… Get the Brigadeiros recipe.
While we’re on the subject of desserts, go vote for your favorite treat to win it all in our interactive Sweet 16 Dessert Bracket!
Header image courtesy of Foodie Crush.