Porcupine Meatballs with Smoked Paprika

When I was a kid, one of my brothers would always eat the meat stuffing out of my mom's cabbage rolls and leave all the delicious, tomato sauce napped cabbage untouched. I loved that cabbage  so I always thought he was nuts but just last week, I made gemista and Shack and The Kid did the same thing. They both ate up the stuffing but didn't touch the delicious peppers that the stuffing was roasted in. Clearly, they really liked the meat and rice thing so it made sense to run with that and find another use for it and for some reason, I couldn't get porcupine meatballs out of my mind. It's not even like I have fond childhood memories of eating them  like many of my friends. If my mom ever did make them, she would have used minute rice and cream of mushroom soup so if I she ever served them them I have blocked them out of my mind along with the reoccurring nightmare where everyone in my family turned into zombies and I had nowhere to run. Still, the idea of making them was intriguing but they would have to be different than a bland old meatball with rice on a toothpick.

Since I have been all about the smoked paprika lately, why not combine two different things I am loving right now - something kind of spanish tasting with smoked paprika and porcupine meatballs? 

This dish was a rousing success if I do say so myself. We all love meatballs and adding the rice reminded me of the stuffing for the gemista, which we all enjoyed and the smoked paprika made sure they didn't taste like the regular italian meatballs I make all the time. They sauce ended up thickening up and coating the meatballs as opposed to sort of swim in sauce so if you like them really saucy, I would add a bit more stock and tomato puree to the baking pan.
The Kid ate three helpings and then asked for a meatball sandwich to take to camp the next day. I'd say there will be more porcupine meatballs in our future and , dare I say, this may start a fun, retro trend. 

Porcupine Meatballs with Smoked Paprika

1 small onion diced
2 clove garlic chopped
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 to 3/4 cup uncooked basmati rice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tbls fresh thyme
1 tbls fresh rosemary
1 tbls sweet paprika
1 tbls smoked paprika 
kosher salt and pepper to taste
pinch cayenne

Olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. You can use anywhere from 1/3 cup of rice to  3/4 cup of rice to be honest. With the maximum amount, the meatballs are really full of rice, which I liked but if you want only a bit of rice in there, use less just don't use more than 3/4 cup or the meatballs won't hold together as nicely.
 Only mix until everything is totally combined - over mixing leads to touch meatballs. Take a pinch of the mixture and cook it - either fry it quickly or pop it in the microwave- and taste it so you can adjust the spices accordingly. When you are happy with the taste, form into golf ball sized meatballs, put them on a baking tray and keep them in the fridge while you get the rest of the stuff for the sauce ready (longer is great too - it lets them firm up a bit)

Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a heavy oven proof pan and brown the meatballs in batches. Remove them to a dish until they are all done. If you don't have an oven proof pan, don't worry because you can bake them in a baking dish.

olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbls smoked paprika
3 tbls brandy
2 cups tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
bunch rosemary and a bunch thyme
a handful of fresh, chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 325F

Wipe the bottom of the pan clean to get rid of all the burnt rice etc.

Add a bit more olive oil, and sauté the onion and garlic until they start to brown a bit and then add in the smoked paprika. Stir that around for a minute until it becomes really fragrant and then add the brandy and deglaze the pan with that before adding in the tomato, stock, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Let that come to a boil, taste, adjust seasonings to your liking (I always need salt because I use my own tomato puree and it has no salt in it) and then pour that over the meatballs in a baking dish
you can just add the meatballs to your ovenproof pan that you have been using
Either way, cover them and put them in the oven for about an hour and a half. Check them after an hour and see if the rice is cooked yet and if it is, you can take them out of course.


  1. These look delicious! The sauce sounds awesome too!

  2. I did exactly what your brothers did growing up, lol. These look very similar to the ones my mom and grandma used to make. The recipe doesn't seem that different, either. Though I know they have never used brandy. How was it with brandy? I bet fantastic. I should try. Thanks for the memories and inspiration! Well done.

  3. Thanks so much for this information. I have to let you know I concur on several of the points you make here and others may require some further review, but I can see your viewpoint.


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