Meatballs in Chipotle-Tomato Sauce

Adapted from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy (Clarkson Potter 2000) via My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss (Viking 2012)

Meatballs in Chipotle Tomato Sauce are studded with zucchini and onions and “swim in a delectable sauce of chipotle chiles and ground tomatoes.” Because they’re cooked entirely in the sauce, the meatballs are quite tender and easier to make than those that need to be baked or fried. Despite the chipotles, the sauce isn’t overwhelmingly spicy; our child testers powered them down. You can adjust the heat by adding more or less chipotles. If you’re uncertain, start with 2 chipotles and add more to taste. A Greek butcher once told me that meatballs made with half pork and half beef taste  far superior to meatballs made with either meat on its own. This recipe uses the butcher’s technique. Fresh zucchini and onions add even more flavor. Refrigerating meatballs for at least 30 minutes before adding them to the pot helps meatballs stay together instead of breaking apart in the sauce. Meatballs in Tomato-Chipotle Sauce make great leftovers and also freeze well.

Meatballs:

  • 12 ounces (3/4 pound) ground beef
  • 12 ounces (3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups diced zucchini, 1/8″ dice
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion, 1/8″ dice
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds

Sauce:

  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2-4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely minced
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Make Meatballs: Put beef, pork, zucchini, onion, oregano, eggs, and salt in large bowl. Crush black peppercorns and cumin seeds in mortar and pestle, or grind in spice grinder, and add to bowl. Thoroughly mix all the ingredients with your hands. Shape mix into 1″ balls (using a small scoop makes this task go quickly). Put meatballs on parchment paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate while making sauce.

Make Sauce: Heat olive oil in large pot and add crushed tomatoes and 2 minced chipotles. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken stock. Carefully add meatballs to sauce, one by one, being careful not to break them into pieces. One way to avoid breaking them up is to pause after adding every 10th meatball and let the meatballs in the pot start cooking, then move them out of the way to add another batch of ten. Repeat until all meatballs are in the pot. Return sauce to a boil, cover pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer meatballs 45 minutes. Taste and add chipotles, salt, or freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Simmer for 5 more minutes, and serve immediately.

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