One of our Food Resolutions for 2015 was to seek out new food experiences, and Fargo-Moorhead's second annual Restaurant Week gives us the perfect opportunity to do just that. The event, sponsored by the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, launched Thursday in 21 local restaurants in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, and will run through this Saturday.

To participate, each restaurant has been asked to create a special two- or three-course menu at a discounted price, to be offered for lunch and/or dinner service. Sarello's participated last year, and we are delighted to join the fun once again, along with other local hotspots like The Boiler Room, Old Broadway, Monte's, the HoDo, D'Vine and our newest favorite, Luna Fargo Restaurant.

In addition, you can find several Asian options, as well as a good assortment of pub/bar and grill food offerings. Most of the restaurants allow children, and our 10-year-old son, Giovanni, has had fun checking out the event's website and reading each restaurant's menu so that he can tell us where we're going next.

At Sarello's, we've created a three-course menu with two choices for an appetizer, entrée and dessert, available all this week for $35. This special menu features signature items like our Red Curry Scallops and Lobster Ravioli, as well as recent menu additions like Scaloppine of Pork Saltimbocca and Fried Mushroom Balls.

We first began featuring the mushroom balls on our regular menu earlier this year, and they are, without question, one of its hidden gems. In fact, in a recent post on our Facebook page, one Restaurant Week guest wrote that her husband "ate a mushroom ball and loved it!" This is exactly what Restaurant Week is all about.

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So what makes these mushroom balls taste so good that even a non-mushroom fan can be converted? Tony says that one key to this recipe is to use a blend of at least two mushroom varieties, and at Sarello's we use four including crimini, portabella, oyster and shiitake. Each mushroom has its own unique flavor and texture, and using a variety will add layers of depth to the mushroom balls.

The mushrooms are finely chopped and then sautéed in butter with diced onions, fresh thyme and black pepper. To save time, we use a food processor to chop the mushrooms, but a sharp knife will work just as well. Once the mushrooms and onions are finished cooking (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and cool slightly before adding the binding agents (eggs, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, mayo and breadcrumbs).

The mushroom mixture must be refrigerated for at least two to three hours, so that it is firm enough to roll into balls. It can be prepared up to a week in advance and refrigerated until ready to use, or stored in the freezer for up to three months.

To form the balls, use a small scoop and roll into balls no larger than a golf ball. Next, dredge each ball in flour, then egg wash, then breadcrumbs, and fry in vegetable oil until golden brown. You can use a deep fryer for the entire process, or you could fry them in a pan with oil until golden brown all over, and finish in the oven to ensure that they are evenly heated. Serve with warm tomato sauce and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

We encourage you to explore our area's dynamic culinary scene and hope you'll celebrate Restaurant Week with a visit to any of the participating restaurants. For more details, visit www.fmrestaurantweek.com.

Sarello's Fried Mushroom Balls

Makes 24 balls

Ingredients:

6 cups mushrooms, using at least two varieties (crimini, baby portabella, shiitake, oyster), coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

½ cup yellow onion, small diced

½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

½ tablespoon fresh black pepper

4 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

¾ cup mayonnaise

2 cups Panko breadcrumbs, or regular unseasoned breadcrumbs

1 pinch of kosher salt

2 to 3 cups vegetable oil for frying

For dredging:

2 to 3 cups flour

2 to 3 eggs, mixed with 2 tablespoons milk or water

3 cups Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs

To serve:

2 cups warm marinara sauce

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions:

Pulse the mushrooms in a food processor, or dice with a sharp knife until finely chopped.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat, add onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the finely chopped mushrooms, thyme and black pepper and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and cool for at least 15 minutes. Add the eggs, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, mayonnaise, bread crumbs and salt. Use a spatula or spoon to thoroughly mix the ingredients until well combined.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours before handling. The mixture may be refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Scoop out the mixture with a spoon or ice cream scoop and use your hands to form into balls, no larger than a golf ball. Use pie pans or shallow dishes to create a dredging station and roll each ball first in flour, then the egg wash and finally the Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.

Use a deep fryer set to 375 degrees and fry the balls until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Or, fill a skillet with about a ¼-inch of oil and fry the balls over medium-high heat until golden brown all over; finish in a 375-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes, until evenly heated all the way through.

Drain on paper towels for one minute and serve with warm tomato sauce, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and finely chopped fresh parsley.

"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.