Soft & tender well-seasoned meatballs baked in a rich tomato sauce make this the perfect classic comfort food for family dinners. A multi-generation meatball recipe from my family to yours.
When it comes to creating recipes, I much rather prefer to make foods that I grew up on and ones that I can connect with than the lastest insane trend out there.
For me, food not only revolves around flavor but also around memories and moments in time.
I’m a sentimentalist no doubt. Food, cooking/baking, and creating recipes have to have more than just an awesome taste. They have to have a meaning, purpose, or spark/create a memory.
This recipe has been in my family for generations. I did tweak it quite a bit to get it where I find it to be perfected. For example, the original recipe used breadcrumbs, green peppers, white rice (always cooked) and only condensed soup.
I found that using a panade (milk bread) helps produce the tenderest meatballs. Additionally, no green peppers, different rice, and tomato paste for more depth of flavor in the sauce.
Being in the kitchen with my family make up most of my childhood memories. I think that’s where most of my passion comes from.
Now that many of us are home and social distancing ourselves to keep ourselves healthy, this is the perfect recipe to get the family to make together.
Create deliciousness while creating memories that will last a lifetime and; like me, can be passed on to future generations.
Grab Your Ingredients
This recipe is created out of simple ingredients that we had on hand. What we lacked in money, we had other riches. Resourcefulness and respect for ingredients were just two fo the many we had.
Mom and Grandma made recipes using stuff they had on hand; simple pantry and fridge ingredients.
From the Pantry, You’ll Need:
- Long Grain Rice – You will have to cook it as I do not use raw rice in my meatballs. I hate crunchy rice
- Tomato Soup
- Tomato Paste
- Beef Stock
From the Fridge, You’ll Need:
- Ground Beef
Let’s Make Some Meatballs!
The key to making meatballs is to not overwork/over mix the ingredients. If you do this, they will turn out tough.
- Make the Panade (milk bread) by adding the bread and milk to a bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, add the rest of the meatball ingredients. Once the bread has soaked, add the bread and any milk to the bowl of meat.
- Using your hands, gently mix to combine.
The mixture should be wet and soft but when you form a meatball it should hold the shape.
Chef’s Tip for Shaping Meatballs
Damp Hands! Seriously, that’s the best tip.
Well okay, that and using a cookie scoop!
Wet your hands and shape. Damp hands are a trick to keeping the mixture from sticking to your hands. When the mixture starts to stick to your hands, just re-wet your hands.
Classic Porcupine Meatball Sauce
As I said, we went with what we had on hand. This recipe calls for condensed tomato soup.
I’ve tried it with tomato sauce and I didn’t like it at all. It was “too” tomato and tangy and just threw the flavor balance off.
For this sauce it’s just a few pantry ingredients:
- Condensed tomato soup
- Beef Stock
- Tomato Paste
- To a bowl or measuring cup add the ingredients and whisk to combine.
Baking the Perfect Meatball
- Place your shaped meatballs in your baking dish and pour the sauce all over.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- To help caramelize and thicken up the sauce, remove the foil and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes or until the internal meatball temp reaches 165F.
- Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes and serve.
What to Serve with Porcupine Meatballs
Here are some of my favorite things to serve with them:
- Mashed Potatoes or Mashed Cauliflower
- Creamy Corn Casserole
- The BEST Green beans
- Buttered Hoagie Rolls
- Wide Egg Noodles
Ways to Serve These Meatballs
- Main dish – Best with a side dish and salad
- Sliders – Make the meatballs smaller to fit those Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls. To the bottom of the rolls add some cheese, a meatball, and buttered toasted top
- Porcupine Meatball Bowl – add mashed potatoes to a bowl, swirl on some sauce, add a few meatballs and a drizzle of more sauce. Serve with garlic bread or cheesy bread
- Serve on a Charcuterie board – Make smaller meatballs and serve on a charcuterie board with a side of sauce, garlic toast, and cheese bread.
Freezing the meatballs
These freeze beautifully both raw and cooked. I, personally, tend to freeze my meatballs raw then cook them as I need them.
If you want to freeze them raw, once the meatballs are shaped, place the baking pan in the freezer for at least an hour. You’re “flash freezing” the meatballs. Once the meatballs are hard to the touch and have little to no give when you pick them up, simply place in a freezer-safe bag, mark the outside of the bag with what they are and the cooking time. *Note I tend to add 5-10 minutes of additional baking time as you are starting from a frozen state. Frozen they will last about 3 months raw.
*Note that there is no sauce frozen with the meatballs
If you want to freeze them after they are baked, allow them to cool completely. Place in a freezer-safe container, mark the outside what they are. To reheat either microwave, thaw in the fridge and then reheat in the oven at 350F until warmed through. Cooked then frozen, they will last about a month in the freezer.
Chef’s Tip about freezing the sauce
If you want to freeze the sauce you can make it up, and put it separately in a freezer-safe container. Just take that out the night before you go to make your meatballs as you want the sauce thawed.
What I do is make a fresh batch of sauce when I pull the meatballs out of the freezer and want to bake them.
Because I know you guys love to take a recipe and put your spins on them let me give some tips on substitutions.
- Egg – See THIS POST about what to use in place of an egg binder. I would probably go with Aquafaba or the Flax Seed substitution
- Beef – You can do a 60/40 mixture of beef and ground pork. You can also use ground turkey and chicken.* What I would do though is check the temp at the 35/40 minute mark as they may cook faster since they are a leaner meat
- Panade (milk/bread) – You can use gluten-free bread or ground pork rind with almond or soy milk
- Tomato Soup – sorry but I found that the tomato soup adds that creamy texture that the sauce needs. I use it but you’re welcome to use tomato sauce for a stronger taste
- Rice – you can use rice cauliflower or cooked quinoa if you’d like
For those warm months that you simply don’t want to turn on the oven, you can easily make these in a 6-quart crockpot.
- Prep the sauce as directed on the instructions.
- Mix and shape the meatballs per the instructions.
- Place the meatballs in a 6-quart crockpot and cover with the sauce.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the internal temp reads 165F.
Looking for other amazing meatball recipes? Try these!
- 1 1/2 cups cooked, cooled wild grain rice blend, *See note
- 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 1 XL Egg
- 1/2 medium onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 slices of bread, torn
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 23 ounce can condensed tomato soup
- 1 cup beef stock or water
- 8 ounces RedPack tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Make the Sauce
- Preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, add all sauce ingredients and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Make the Meatballs
- In a small bowl add the bread and milk and gently press down. Allow to soak for ~5 minutes.
- In a large bowl add the rest of the meatball ingredients. Add the panade mixture (milk and bread) to the bowl. Without overworking the mixture, gently mix just to combine. The mixture should be wet but hold a shape when you form it into a ball. Scoop enough meat mixture to form a 2” round ball (I use a large cookie scoop to measure out my meatballs). Wet your hands and shape. Damp hands are a trick to keeping the mixture from sticking to your hands! *See post for freezing instructions.
- Place the meatballs in a 3-4 quart baking dish or 9×13” baking pan. They can touch. Repeat until all of the meatballs are shaped and in a pan. If necessary, use 2 pans if you do not have a large enough pan.
Assemble and Bake
- Pour the mixture over top of the meatballs. Cover the meatballs with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the cover and bake for another 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165F.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before plating.
- Store leftovers in a lidded container in the fridge for up to a week.
If you don’t have wild grain rice, you can use cooked long grain white or brown rice.
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