Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Following all the excitement of the holidays, people are going back to their routines; work, school, and weeknight rituals are the norm.  In the kitchen, ground meat (or ground meatless substitute) is a freezer staple that frequently mollifies stress at cooking time, and saves the day when transformed into tasty stews, sandwich fillings, or as in this case, meatballs.  In Mexico, the traditional way to cook meatballs, in general, is by preparing ground meat with egg and bread, similar to a mix for meatloaf, and then dropping the raw meatballs directly in caldillo, a brothy tomato-based sauce.  From there, they may be finished in many different ways, for example as I have posted before, in broth with vegetables or a thickened chipotle sauce; in this recipe, the meaty gems are paired with veggies, simmered in a tomato sauce spiced up with fresh hot green peppers.  

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – Albóndigas en Salsa de Tomate

Printable recipe:  Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Printable recipe: Mexican Style Rice 

Ingredients (for four portions)

1 lb (454 g) lean ground meat (beef, pork, mixed, or meatless substitute)
1 egg
1 slice bread; broken into small pieces
¼ cup milk
½ tsp salt, or to taste
¼ tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
½ lb (225 g) carrots; washed, peeled and sliced (or baby carrots)
¼ lb (110 g) fresh green beans; washed, trimmed and cut up into pieces
3 tomatoes; washed, stem spots removed, and quartered
2 fresh serrano or jalapeño peppers, or to taste; washed
¼ onion; peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cloves garlic; peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp oil
2-3 cups water, as needed

To serve: Mexican Style Rice (click to go to printable recipe above)

In a mixing bowl, beat egg with a fork, then add milk, salt, and pepper (photo below, left); mix-in bread and allow to soak for a couple of minutes. Incorporate the ground meat, mixing all ingredients together (photo below, right):

Continue kneading with clean hands until the mix looks uniform.  Divide into 16-20 portions, and form each one into a ball; set aside (photo below, left). 

For the caldillo, process tomatoes, onion and garlic in the blender until smooth.  In a large pot, warm up oil over medium-high heat, then add tomato mix (photo below, right):

Fry the sauce, stirring, for two to three minutes, then add two cups of water (photo below, left).  Bring back to boil, then lower heat to a simmer, and cook; after ten minutes, carefully drop meatballs into the pot, one by one (photo below, right):

Add more water, just enough to cover the meatballs, gently stirring to incorporate.  Add carrots and green beans; bring to boil again, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for  20 minutes (photo below, left).  Uncover and add hot peppers (photo below, right):

Continue cooking for another ten to fifteen minutes.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed:

To plate, arrange three to four meatballs and a portion of veggies; top with sauce, and complete with a side of Mexican style rice:

This is a filling and well-balanced meal, to help going back on track to family routines, and homemade dinners, hearty and simple.

If time is really pressing, frozen carrots and green beans, and tomato sauce, may be used in a pinch instead of fresh veggies and caldillo.


I am sharing my recipe at What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up #401 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.  Thank you so much to Helen for featuring my Turkey Leftovers – Six Ways at this party!


I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #623 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.


I am sharing my post at Thursday Favourite Things #574, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.


I am joining Fiesta Friday #467 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday

5 thoughts on “Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

  1. A trick of mine, from an aha moment at restaurant for tender meatballs. Cream of wheat instead of bread. I never got the actual formula from the chef, but I’ve played with soaking it and also adding it dry, proportion still not fully worked out. Might be a fun experiment for you, too. It really does result in tender meatballs.

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    1. Sounds great for baked meatballs, thanks for the tip! These being directly cooked in broth, need to be on the firmer side so they will not break, and then they end nice and soft from the simmering stage.

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  2. Oh just yum!! An amazing Mexican variation of an Italian classic. It’s amazing how many dishes cross over cultures. !! I love this – pinned! Thanks so much for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party – hope you weekend it great!

    Liked by 1 person

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