Nope, no bits of real porcupine in this one. Just a good ole-fashioned Italian meatball recipe with the inclusion of rice – imagine the filling for stuffed peppers as a standalone dish. That’s the goodness that is this porcupine free recipe.
This one holds a very special place in my heart as it is, on record, my first memory of ever cooking anything by myself. As a means of breaking me into the long line of great female cooks in our family, my grandmother and mother purchased me a cookbook for kids when I was 9 or 10. I remember pouring through the pages, wanting to be a part of the group of kids in the test kitchen pictured creating and devouring the many recipes. I particularly like the cooked dishes – the idea that I could be responsible for more than a PBJ cut with a cookie-cutter was exhilarating. One of the recipes, called “Porcupine Meatballs” was particularly interesting to me and seemingly edible for the family, so my mom said that it’d be a good one to start with.
I know that if I noshed on those same meatballs today, I’d probably find them lacking, but in my memory of yore, they are placed on an official pedestal. This version is excellent for gourmands and kiddos alike – full of flavor and fork-tender. Best of all, no frying means that you don’t have to stand over a stove for some savory, meatball greatness. The porcupine “quills” come from rice – in this case, I use a pint of leftover white rice from Chinese takeout, but you can use any leftover rice or even partially cooked instant rice. With the instant variety, as the rice cooks it absorbs all the flavor from the meat and sauce, working similarly to breadcrumbs. The result is sumptuous and a whole lot easier to come by than an actual porcupine.
1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef
1 to 1 1/2 c. of cooked rice
1 c. of onion, chopped
3 cl. of garlic, minced
1/4 c. of parsley, loosely packed and then finely chopped
1/4 c. of grated parmasean
3 tbs. of ketchup
1/2 tsp. of white pepper
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of onion powder
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder
1 jar of tomato sauce (I use Barilla or Classico)
1 can of chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 450°.
In a standing mixer or large bowl, add the meat, rice, onion, garlic, parsley, parmasean, ketchup, eggs, white pepper, black pepper, salt, onion powder and garlic powder. Mix gently until all ingredients are incorporated and then form into tangerine-sized balls.
Rub a 13x9x2 pan with olive oil and then place the meatballs in an even row. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
While the meatballs are browning on one side, add the tomato sauce and chicken broth to a saucepan and warm, stirring to incorporate. After the meatballs have been in the oven for 20 minutes, remove them from the oven, turn the meatballs over and pour the sauce over all of them. Return to the oven and let the meatballs braise in the sauce for 15-20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving.