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Porcupine Meatballs

For kids from 1 to 92.

Luckily, porcupine meatballs do not contain any actual porcupines. That would be spiky. What they do contain is a generous helping of flavor and fun. They’re a tasty and hearty meatball where rice acts as the binder. As the meatballs simmer away in tomato sauce, the rice puffs up as it cooks, creating little “quills” that stick out of the meatballs. The rice keeps the meatball moist and tender, but also adds a pretty adorable twist to this meal.

These meatballs may not be anything new, but that might be why we love them so much. They’re a nostalgic dish that we remember from our childhood and we still get a kick out of removing the lid and seeing those little rice spikes poking every which way. It also doesn’t hurt that they taste amazing. (Around here they get gobbled down instantly. Mostly by yours truly.) Really, it’s a dish for kids of all ages.

Our version is a little different from the original Hunts ad, mainly in that we’ve bumped up the seasoning a bit and skipped the browning. We’ve found that leaving out that step saves a little time but doesn’t affect the overall outcome. In any case, these are easy to make!

You combine the ground beef, rice, onions, herbs, egg, and a half cup of the tomato sauce in a bowl…

And mush it all together with your hands… (It’s okay to get messy once in a while.)

You form the mixture into about 20 small balls, about an inch and a half across, and place them in the bottom of a skillet…

Then, you mix together the remaining tomato sauce, Worcestershire, and a little bit of water and pour it into the skillet…

And then you let those meatballs simmer.

As they cook, the grains of rice emerge from the meatballs as cute little quills and the sauce surrounds the tender meatballs and immerses them in just enough extra flavor.

You gingerly, gently turn the meatballs over and let the other side simmer in the sauce so that they’re coated all over, and then you serve them over mashed potatoes, or more rice, or even just as they are.

Whimsical name aside, they’re really tender and succulent and imbued with a satisfying herby flavor and a sweet tomato base. They’re more than good enough without the gimmick, but we’re awfully fond of that part too.

Porcupine Meatballs

Serves 4; 45 minutes

Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preparation
  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix together ground beef, rice, beaten egg, 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce, onion, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs (will make about 20). Place meatballs into a large skillet.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining tomato sauce, 1/2 cup water, and Worcestershire sauce and pour over the meatballs. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Gently turn meatballs over and continue to simmer, covered, until meatballs are cooked through, 15-20 more minutes. Enjoy!