Cheap, easy food for hungry people: porcupine meatballs

The simplest, Southern-est recipe in the book. Called “porcupine” because of the way the rice sticks out of the meatballs when they start to cook.

These meatballs are absolutely stress-free. You can make them in any quantity and they always come out perfect. They’re beefy, rich without being too fatty, and stick-to-your ribs hearty. If you have a big day of physical activity or a big crowd to host in a short period of time, this recipe is one you want to have in your back pocket.

Also, guuuurrrrrl, these things are cheap to make. If you are on a more strict budget, look at this ingredients list: ground beef, rice, onions, tomato sauce. It’s the richest-tasting poor-people food you’re ever gonna find.

Make a big batch, even if you’re just cooking for one or two, because you can freeze them in individual portions and thaw them quickly in the microwave for a quick, homey-type dinner or lunch.

Because they cook in their own sauce, I advise putting some rice in the ol’ rice cooker 20 or 30 minutes before these guys come out of the oven. Then, serve the meatballs on top of or next to the rice. Although it is a humble dish, I’ve found an elegant presentation method: Use Japanese sticky rice and an ice cream scoop to line up one meatball, one rice ball, a second meatball, and a second rice ball on a plate. Then, top all four balls with a thick stripe of the rich, red sauce.


serves 4-6

1.5-2 pounds ground beef (leaner is, well, leaner and better for you)
2/3 cup rice (I prefer sticky rice)
1/2 cup water
1 egg
Half a sweet yellow onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
Salt and pepper
A 15-oz can and a 29-oz can of tomato sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne powder, Tabasco (optional)

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees, and get a 9×13 baking dish and a smaller auxiliary dish out of the cupboard.

Put all but the last three ingredients in a large metal bowl and start blending and squishing ‘em together with your hands. It’s gonna be cold and it’s gonna feel moderately gross. Use salt and pepper in accordance with your own taste.

When it looks good and consistently mixed, start shaping your meatballs. They’ll be around an inch and a half to two inches in diameter — larger than golf balls by just a little bit. Ideally, two or three of these suckers along with some rice will make one serving. Place the raw meatballs in the baking dishes; it’s ok if they’re touching, but don’t crowd them too much.

When all the meat is in the baking dishes, rinse out your mixing bowl, then pour in the larger can of tomato sauce. Fill the can with water, and pour that in with the sauce. Then, add a lot of Worcestershire — several dashes, depending on how strongly flavored you want your sauce to be. If you like a bit of kick, toss in a shake or two of cayenne or Tabasco, but don’t go overboard. Blend the sauce together, and gently pour it over the meatballs. You’ll want the meatballs to be entirely covered by the liquid, but not by very much. If you can still see just the very tops of the meatballs above the sauce, that’s fine. If you need more sauce, crack open the smaller can of tomato sauce and repeat the steps — can o’ water, few shakes of Worcestershire, dash of Tabasco for “kick.”

Now put your uncovered baking dish or dishes into the hot oven and let ‘em bake for an hour. In one hour, reach in with a spoon and carefully pull out a meatball — your “tester.” It should be cooked through, and the rice should be tender. If it’s not meeting both criteria, let ‘em cook for another 15 minutes or so. If the meatball is crunchy on top, add more liquid to the pans. You can’t really overcook these guys, so don’t sweat it too much.

When everything is ready, including your side dish of rice, scoop out the meatballs and smother them in the tomato sauce, which will now be a deep, rich, red and quite beefy in flavor.

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3 thoughts on “Cheap, easy food for hungry people: porcupine meatballs

  1. Jolie!
    This look amazing. It’s so freakin’ cold over here in London at the moment and I think I will have to make this to warm up and nourish my insides.

  2. Pingback: Kitchen gadgets I would not want to live without | The Single Housewife

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