Porcupine Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce
Have you ever had Porcupine Meatballs?
If you haven’t, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. We’re talking huge meatballs filled with loads of rice, which gets to cook right inside the meatballs while they simmer away in a rich, tasty tomato sauce.
Let me tell you, home cooking doesn’t get much better than this.
I was introduced to this delicious fare back when I was a kid. My best friend’s mom used to make them all the time, and I remember just how ecstatic I was when she’d make them for dinner and then invited me to stay. Oh! The joy!
To this day, I can still remember exactly what her Porcupine Meatballs tasted like. Funny how certain seemingly insignificant things can mark us so very deeply in life.
Like your best friend’s mom’s cooking…
Later in life, as a young adult, I taught myself how to make my own Porcupine Meatballs and prepared them very regularly for a while. But then, I kind of stopped and eventually sort of forgot that they even existed… until they recently popped right back in my mind, totally unannounced and out of absolutely nowhere.
Of course, it brought up this HUGE craving that I knew just wouldn’t go away until it had been satisfied.
And then, remembering those meatballs brought back the memory of another one of my favorite dishes that my best friend’s mom’s used to make: Beef & Barley Soup, aka probably the best darn and most comforting soup known to mankind.
And so, lucky for you, I decided to whip up a batch of each. Seeing as how I appear to be coming up with a nasty cold, this seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Why of course, I’ll be sharing the soup recipe, too. Very soon…
Patience, grasshopper. For now, we’ve some meatballs to make!
First, to make some meatballs!
As usual, you’ll want to combine all your ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then knead them well with clean hands until everything’s evenly combined.
Note that my recipe calls for ground beef, but you could very well change things up by using ground veal, pork or even lamb instead. You could even do a combination, if you wanted to!
When it comes to rice, though, make sure that you stick to uncooked long grain rice. Since that rice will be cooking right inside the meatballs as they simmer away in that yummy tomato sauce, you don’t want to go using anything “pre-cooked” or “minute” here. That definitely wouldn’t yield optimal results.
Oh, and don’t forget the eggs!
These guys play a very important role in the elaboration of your meatballs. Not only will they act as a binding agent and help greatly in keeping your meatballs together, but they also add a fair amount of moisture and tenderness to your meat.
With all the rice that we’ve just thrown in there, trust me, we’ll definitely be needing those eggs!
Now form your meat mixture into 15 to 18 meatballs, depending on how many people you are feeding and how big you want your meatballs to be.
I find a large spring-loaded ice cream scoop is the perfect size and really helps in getting the job done quickly and efficiently.
Whatever you do, don’t overwork your meatballs and don’t go squeezing them super tight either. If you want those meatballs to remain light and moist, be delicate and gentle when you shape them and don’t overdo things.
Keep those hands loose and as soon as you get the right shape, drop that ball!
Now, place a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of cooking fat or oil to it. I’m a real fan of ghee, but feel free to use whichever you prefer.
Once your pan is really hot, sear the meatballs in batches, about 6 to 8 at a time (DON’T overcrowd that pan) until they get nice and browned all around. That’s key to getting incredibly tasty meatballs: a nice brown crust.
You don’t want to cook the meat all the way through at this point, just give the meatballs a beautiful brown and crispy exterior. Be very gentle when you manipulate your meatballs, for they will be very fragile at this point (unless you didn’t follow my recommendations earlier and squeezed them until they got hard as a rock)
Oh, and if you’re concerned with all the fat that’s in the pan, don’t worry about it ‘cuz that’s exactly where it’s gonna stay once it’s served its purpose: IN THE PAN!
When your meatballs are nicely browned all around, transfer them to a large stockpot while you work on the rest of the meatballs.
Then, once all the meatballs have been seared and transferred to the stock pot, add the diced tomatoes, water, Worcestershire sauce, spices and bay leaf to that pot.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover loosely and cook the meatballs for about 25 minutes on a slow simmer, stirring very delicately from time to time.
Then, remove the lid and continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened to your liking and sufficiently splattered all over the kitchen floor, walls, and ceiling…
And voilà! Your Porcupine Meatballs are now ready to be served.
I strongly recommend that you garnish them with a handful of chopped parsley; that little hint of color makes them look so much better!
These meatballs, with all the rice that they harbor, are pretty much a meal on their own.
If you’re really adamant on serving them with something, though, I think that mashed cauliflower or mashed potatoes would work amazingly well.
That, or my ultimate favorite from back in the days: simple boiled white potatoes. I would smash them with my fork and mix them right in with the meat and tomato sauce.
Porcupine Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce
For the meatballs
- Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large mixing bowl and knead well with clean hands to fully combine.
- Form into 15 to 18 meatballs, roughly the size of a squash ball (a large spring-loaded ice cream scoop really helps to do this quickly and efficiently).
- Place a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of cooking fat or oil to it. Once hot, sear the meatballs in batches, about 6-8 at a time, until they get nice and browned all around, then transfer them to a large stockpot while you work on the rest of the meatballs.
- Once all the meatballs have been seared, add the diced tomatoes, water, Worcestershire sauce, spices and bay leaf to the stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover loosely and cook the meatballs for about 25 minutes on a slow simmer, stirring very delicately from time to time. Then, remove the lid and continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened to your liking.
- Serve, garnished with a handful of chopped parsley if desired.