Porcupine Meatballs aren’t your ordinary meatball! These are big, juicy Italian-style meatballs in a rich tomato sauce, made with rice that sticks out a bit like porcupine quills when cooked. They’re a hearty and flavorful meal that’s been passed down for generations!
Easy Porcupine Meatballs
Porcupine meatballs are a fun and easy to make comfort food that has been delighting families for generations!
This quirky dish originated with my Mémère, who passed it down to my mom, and now I am sharing it with you. It is loved by kids and adults alike.
Why are they called Porcupine Meatballs?
Porcupine meatballs get their name because they have rice in them and it pokes out all over once the meatballs are cooked. While they are a meatball, the rice gives them a flavor and texture all of their own.
They are served more like a main dish rather than traditional meatballs that are served on top of spaghetti.
Our family makes these on the stovetop with a nice slow cooking so all the flavors can develop and smooth out. I like to plan on two hours of slow cooking. This lets all the flavors develop and balance out.
The meatballs give flavor to the tomato sauce and the tomato sauce flavors the meatballs. It’s a perfect marriage of deliciousness when it is all cooked.
Related: Try our Baked Barbecue Meatballs Recipe too!
What to Serve with Porcupine Meatballs
Porcupine meatballs are a large Italian-flavored meatball that has, instead of breadcrumbs in the mix, has rice in the mixture. The meatballs are then cooked in a simple tomato sauce for a couple of hours.
Once done, you have a meatball that is studded with white rice and is served in its own rich tomato sauce.
This dish has been around a long time — like Mémère’s garlic pork roast, it’s one of the oldest recipes in our family! My mom, who is 88, remembers her mother serving it when she was young.
The meatballs are the main entrée and can be served alongside of egg noodles, more rice, mashed potatoes, or like I do, mashed cauliflower. I like to add a green salad or something green as well.
These meatballs are great for me, because they are gluten free. Because there is rice in the meatball, I would probably pair is with some kind of cooked vegetable and a salad.
Granny says, “it’s great with cheesy noodles!” I’m sure it is Granny!
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Porcupine Balls Ingredients
- Ground beef
- Mild Italian sausage
- Rice — We used short grain white rice (see more notes on types of rice further down in the post).
- Italian seasoning — You’ll use a bit in both the meatballs and the sauce.
- Salt — ONLY if your Italian seasoning does not have salt in it!
- Onion — chopped
- Green bell pepper — chopped
- Canned crushed tomatoes — We used a large 28-ounce can.
- Tomato sauce — We used a standard 14-ounce can.
Kitchen Supplies Used
- Large heavy pot or Dutch oven
- Non-slip mixing bowls
In a heavy bottomed stainless-steel pot or a Dutch oven, combine the tomato sauce, the crushed tomatoes, and about 1/2 cup water. Add a tsp. of Italian seasoning and a pinch of sugar.
Set burner to low and let the sauce start warming up while you make the meatballs.
In a large bowl, combine all of your meatball ingredients (see printable recipe card at the bottom of the post for full amounts and directions).
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into large balls, about 2 inches across.
Gently add the meatballs to the warm tomato sauce. Make sure all the meatballs are covered with sauce.
Take care not let the sauce boil! Aim for a low gentle simmer. Cook for about two hours on the stovetop, then remove from heat and allow to rest 15-30 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you cook the rice first?
In this recipe, the rice is added while raw. This allows it to cook with the meat and the tomato sauce and absorb all those delicious flavors while cooking without getting too mushy or falling apart.
What is the best type of rice to use?
Both short grain or long-grained rice would work. Growing up, most rice sold in the stores was short-grained, so that seems more traditional to me.
We’ve always used white rice, though with the long cooking time I imagine that brown rice would be ok too.
Can you cook this in a slow cooker?
I think you could. I don’t have a slow cooker right now, so I did it on the stove top. But it seems like it would work great to cook slow and low during the day.
Can this be prepared ahead of time?
Absolutely! In fact, if you want it for a work evening during the week, I would make it on the weekend. The flavors only get better!
Grab a Free Printable Copy of our Porcupine Meatballs Recipe
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Porcupine Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Tomato Sauce Ingredients
- 1 can crushed tomatoes 28 ounce can
- 1 can tomato sauce 14 ounce can
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup water
- pinch sugar
- 1 pound ground beef
- ¼ pound mild Italian sausage
- ½ cup rice
- 1 teaspoon salt IF your Italian seasoning does not have salt in it
- ¼ cup onion chopped
- ¼ cup green pepper chopped
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
How to Make the Sauce
- In large pot or Dutch oven, combine tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, and water. Add a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and a pinch of sugar.
- Warm sauce over low heat while you make the meatballs.
How to Make the Meatballs
- Mix together meatball ingredients in a large bowl, then form into large balls, about 2 inches in diameter.
- Gently add the meatballs to the warm tomato sauce. Use a spoon to cover all of the meatballs with sauce.
- Cook at a low simmer for 1 1/2 to two hours - do not allow the sauce to boil.
- Remove from heat and let rest for about 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
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Your grandma mentioned cheesy noodles what are they
My mom would cook egg noodles and after they were cooked and drained, add grated cheddar cheese, butter, salt, and pepper. So good!