Mexican Pork Meatballs in Tomato-Chipotle Chile Sauce


I’ve started keeping a pound of frozen ground meat in my freezer at all times. Sometimes, it’s beef. Sometimes, it’s pork. Right now, it’s “bork,” what Fleisher’s, my Park Slope butcher, calls its mix of ground beef and pork.

This feels like an apocalyptic urge for someone whose stance towards both the freezer and the apocalypse is pretty blasé. While the freezer’s cookie dough and its ice cubes go unused, I find that the beef, pork, or bork becomes a meal at least once every couple of weeks. Which is about the interval at which I return to Fleisher’s to buy some more fresh brisket, chicken thighs, or lamb shanks, and to replenish our freezer’s meat stash.

The habit began late last year, a month or two before 12/21/12, which might have been the apocalypse. It started on a whim. And then, one wintry night when we needed a food pick-me-up, I made mini meatball subs, a recipe from the last chapter of the BGSK book. A few weeks later, there was freezer bolognese.

And then, these.

This filling bowl bears a resemblance to spaghetti and meatballs, only with all the Italian flavors replaced by Mexican ones, cojita cheese subbed for Parm, chipotles added to the tomato sauce, and rice replacing pasta. This is the kind of tidy little meal I love to eat on weeknights, not exactly healthful, but not fried or rich really either, and completely satisfying. And also: cheap. That pound of awesome, free-range, pretty local meat costs about $6.

More meatballs:

Mexican Chicken Meatballs (the prequel), from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

Mini Ginger Chicken Meatball Subs with Masala Sauce, a BGSK recipe on Design*Sponge

Lamb Meatball Banh Mi Sandwiches from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

Chicken Parm Meatballs from Dinner, a Love Story

Teriyaki Meatball Bowls from Budget Bytes

Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions from Smitten Kitchen


Mexican Pork Meatballs in Tomato-Chipotle Chile Sauce
Makes about 24 1 1/2-inch meatballs, serves 4

You can sub whatever ground meat you like to stow away–chicken, beef, pork, veal. If cojita cheese is unavailable, use Parmesan in the meatballs and shred jack or cheddar on top.

For the meatballs
3 corn tortillas (or use 1/3 cup tortilla crumbs, crushed from tortilla chips in a plastic bag or the food processor)
1/2 small onion
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons crumbled cojita cheese
1 egg
1 pound ground pork, or a combination or pork and beef
1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon salt

For sauce and serving
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 chipotles from a can of chipotles in adobo, seeds removed
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1 tablespoon oil
1 small onion, minced
1 bay leaf
About 4 cups of long-grain white rice, cooked from 2 cups dry rice
Cilantro leaves
4 tablespoons cojita cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat and drizzle with oil. Toast the tortillas until they are golden and crisp, flipping once, about 2 minutes a side. Place on a plate or rack to cool. When cool, break the tortillas into pieces and place in a mini food processor. Process until you have crumbs–it’s fine if they’re a little uneven.

Transfer the tortilla crumbs to a medium mixing bowl.

Place the onion and garlic in a mini food processor and pulse until finely chopped. (Or, grate the onion and mince the garlic by hand.) Transfer the onion and garlic to the mixing bowl with the tortilla crumbs. Add the cheese, egg, meat, oregano, and salt and stir to distribute everything evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of water, and stir that in too. Form into balls of about 2 inches in diameter – you should get 20 to 24. Arrange them about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Cut a meatball open to be sure the meat is cooked through, then set aside.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Blend the garlic and chipotles in the food processor until smooth. Add the whole tomatoes and process again until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a big frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until limp and slightly brown. Sprinkle with salt. Add the tomato-chipotle mix, 1 cup of water, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let the sauce simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt, adding more as needed.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and let cook until the meatballs are warm through, about 10 minutes.

Scoop rice into a bowl. Add 4 to 5 meatballs, then top with 1 tablespoon cojita cheese and some torn cilantro.

Posted in: Easy!
  • Caitlin

    Great recipe!

    • BGSK


  • Gemma Chew

    Yum! I love how you used tortillas in the meatballs! Can’t wait to try this (:

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