If you’re a fan of cocktail meatballs, chances are you’re familiar with the famous slow cooker recipe starring frozen meatballs, chili sauce, and grape jelly. It has a devoted following online and in real life and became a fixture at my family’s birthday celebrations as a crowd-friendly snack adored by all ages. I’ve swapped the slow cooker for a sheet pan, which allows you to enjoy meatballs from scratch in minutes, rather than hours. Orange soda lends a citrusy, sweet-and-sour-esque taste to the quick-fix barbecue sauce. Shape the meatballs into smaller sizes for snacking or go big to turn this appetizer into the main event.
Make the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil, then grease the foil with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the bread and milk and let sit until the bread has absorbed the milk, about 5 minutes. Mash it all together with a fork. Add the ground beef, ground pork, egg, scallions, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Using your hands, mix together just until combined.
Scoop out 2-tablespoon portions of the mixture and roll into balls. Arrange the meatballs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake the meatballs for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through. (Larger meatballs will require longer cooking times.) While the meatballs are baking, make the barbecue sauce.
Make the barbecue sauce. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the orange soda, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water.
When the soda mixture comes to a boil, whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Boil the sauce, stirring occasionally, until it thickens to the consistency of syrup, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set the sauce aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Remove the meatballs from the oven, then transfer to a large bowl. Pour in the barbecue sauce, toss to combine, and serve.