Do not let the funky name fool you – Porcupine Meatballs are a classic. Named for the grains of rice that poke out of the meatballs, Porcupine Meatballs are merely meatballs gussied up with the addition of rice. They are said to have had a moment during the Great Depression, when people were trying to figure out ways to stretch precious ground beef, but I think these meatballs are fabulous on any budget.
With slices of red pepper in the tomato sauce, these rice-enriched meatballs are reminiscent of a stuffed bell pepper. But they’ve got more sauce, which is a delicious addition when you serve the meatballs over any number of bases: mashed potatoes, noodles, sauteed spinach, roasted broccoli, or even more rice.
Another warming, cold-weather addition to your January rotation.
2 pounds ground beef
1 ½ cups cooked long-grain rice
2 eggs, beaten
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion, plus ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup basil leaves, torn
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl using your hands, gently combine the ground beef, rice, eggs, garlic, chopped onion, parsley, oregano, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Mix well, but do not smash the ingredients. Roll into 2-inch balls and set aside.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs in batches, turning them so that they brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Once browned, place the meatballs on a plate.
Add the sliced onion and red bell pepper to the same dutch oven and saute until they are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and basil leaves. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Nestle the meatballs in the tomato sauce, spooning the sauce over the tops of the meatballs. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for another 15 minutes, until the top begins to brown. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
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