I'll always have a soft spot for the sweet tomato sauce that my mom's meatballs swam in, but I have to admit that a dash of fresh lime juice and a bit of fish sauce deepen the flavor even further.
Note: As far as I know, you can't buy fresh, soft bread crumbs in a grocery store. After a loaf of bread goes stale, I tear what remains into chunks, process it to large flakes in my food processor, pour the crumbs into a plastic bag and freeze them. Country loaves or ciabatta make the craggiest crumbs, the lightest meatballs and the crispiest toppings.

Makes 45 mini-meatballs


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1/3 cup crushed, salted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely minced cilantro (including stems)
  • 4 scallions, white and green parts, minced
  • 2 medium (3/4 cup) carrots, finely grated
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes (2 1/2 cups crushed), with juice
  • 1/4 cup packed, dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha, or more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice


Preheat the oven to 375°.

In a large bowl combine the pork, peanuts, bread crumbs, egg, cilantro, scallions, carrots, 1 Tbsp. of the soy sauce, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Mix quickly with your hands to incorporate. Using about 1 rounded Tbsp. of meat mixture for each, roll 45 small meatballs, lining them up on a baking sheet with a little room between.

Bake the meatballs until the tops turn golden, 15 minutes. Pour the whole tomatoes and their juices into a food processor and process until smooth. In a wide-bottomed nonreactive skillet, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, 3/4 cup water, the brown sugar, chili sauce, the remaining 2 Tbsp. of soy sauce and the fish sauce. Simmer, stirring often, and scraping the sides, until the sauce has reduced by about half, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lime juice and season with salt.

Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook, stirring often, over medium-high heat until the meatballs are glazed with the sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. (At this point you can keep the meatballs warm in a crock pot.) Serve with toothpicks.

From The New Midwestern Table: 200 Heartland Recipes (Clarkson Potter) by Amy Thielen.

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