It’s that time of year when many of us frantically scour the web and our collections of cookbooks, looking for the perfect Game Day food.

I used to do that, too, but for the past couple years I’ve taken a shortcut and let others do the thinking for me. And by others, I often mean my sister-in-law, Sarah Anstett, who routinely tries out new and fun recipes the Super Bowl party.

When I recently asked her what her latest favorites were, she didn’t hesitate to come up with an answer: Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders, and Wonton Mozzarella Sticks.

My two brothers, who were passing through the kitchen at the time, heartily agreed that these were two appetizers they would like to see again, and again, and – well, you get the picture.

When Tony and I made these specialties for the first time last week, we joined the love fest and agreed that both dishes would be great additions to any Super Bowl spread.

My sister-in-law has a knack for cooking and often uses the visual social media tool Pinterest as her inspiration for new dishes. I did a quick search for both dishes on Pinterest, which yielded a huge return of varying recipes. After looking at several, Tony and I had enough information to get cooking.

The wonton mozzarella sticks are pretty straightforward: all you’ll need is a pack of wonton wrappers, 12 sticks of mozzarella string cheese, some water and your favorite marinara sauce for dipping. We chose to fry our mozzarella sticks since the reviews on baking them were mixed and opted for grape seed oil as our frying agent.

One our 2015 foodie resolutions was to expand our repertoire of cooking oils, and grape seed has a light flavor and high smoke point, making it a perfect choice for this recipe. We served our cheese sticks with our Easy Tomato Sauce, but a store-bought marinara sauce will work just fine.

The Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders required a few more ingredients but were still pretty simple to make. We chose King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls as the bread, which are soft, slightly sweet and the perfect complement for these little sandwiches. For the filling, we went to the deli counter and chose sliced honey ham and baby Swiss cheese, which has a mild and creamy flavor.

The standard recipe uses a mixture of mustard, melted butter, minced onion (we used fresh, but dried is fine), Worcestershire sauce and poppy seeds. Most recipes called for either yellow prepared mustard or Dijon, but I chose to spice it up a bit with my favorite hot mustard, Coleman’s.

Once the sandwiches have been constructed, they are placed, snuggly, in a baking dish, covered with the mustard mixture, then baked in a 350-degree oven for about 12 to 15 minutes until the rolls are golden brown and the cheese is oozing from the sandwiches. The result is the perfect blend of sweet and savory goodness.

Over the weekend I made another batch and varied the method by putting diced pineapple into half of the sandwiches, adding a little diced jalapeno and pineapple to the topping for the other half.

However you make them, these recipes are low on effort but big on flavor, and we hope they’ll help you score a touchdown with your football fans this Sunday.

Wonton Mozzarella Sticks

Makes 12 sticks

Ingredients:

12 wonton wrappers

6 sticks mozzarella string cheese, halved

Water

1 to 2 cups grape seed oil (any high-smoke-point oil will work)

Marinara sauce for dipping

Directions:

To begin, cut each stick of cheese in half. Lay the wonton wrapper on your work surface in a diamond position, and place a piece of cheese in the center.

With your fingers, dab a little water along the edges of the wrapper, then fold the left and right corners of the wrapper in and over each end of the cheese.

Roll from bottom to top and repeat until you have the quantity desired.

To fry, fill a 10-inch skillet with about 1½ inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat to about 375-400 degrees. Test for readiness by dipping the end of a wrapped cheese stick in the oil; if it sizzles, it’s ready.

Add cheese sticks to skillet and fry until golden brown and crispy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to paper-towel lined plate and serve immediately with your favorite marinara sauce.

Sweet and Savory Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders

Makes 24

Ingredients:

2 packages King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

12 pieces honey ham, halved

12 slices Baby Swiss cheese, halved

1½ tablespoon prepared mustard (choose your favorite)

1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

2 tablespoons yellow onion, minced

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Fresh or canned pineapple chunks, finely chopped – use 3 to 4 tablespoons for topping or 1 teaspoon per sandwich for filling (optional)

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped for topping (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice each roll in half and line a baking dish or sheet pan with the bottom halves placed tightly together. Place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on each roll, folding to make them fit, and then cover each with the top of the roll. If adding pineapple to the filling, place between ham and cheese.

In a small bowl, mix the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, melted butter, onion and poppy seeds together, then pour mixture over each roll. For additional flavor, add finely chopped pineapple and jalapeno to the mixture. Cover the pan with tin foil and let rolls sit for ten minutes before baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 to 15 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt. Remove foil and bake for another two minutes until the rolls are slightly crispy and golden brown, and the cheese is oozing from each sandwich.

Serve immediately.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 10-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at dine@sarellos.com. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com

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