Spicy Chipotle Meatballs with Rice

August 7, 2011

You know, I am just odd.  I mean, everyone’s a little goofy, but I’m a card-carrying member of Team Quirk.

Not that you knew that, right?


Anyways, one of my many oddities is my love of the humble meatball.  Given my strident and lifelong loathing of the meatball’s huge and homely cousin, meatloaf, this makes no damn sense at all.

I mean think about it: what is a meatball but a wee meatloaf nugget?

But for some reason, I love meatballs. Not the big suckers, though–those are a little too meatloaf-y for my comfort and I get all sweaty and shifty-eyed just thinking about them. No. I’m talking about cute little mini-meatballs.

Mini-meatballs are totally unthreatening.  Honest.

Even if you fear The Loaf, you will love these.  If you’re anti-spice, go a little light on the chipotle puree, but we here at Chez T. thought these were hot-damn good!  Well, okay, not the Minxes, but that goes without saying. I even tried to sell it with the term “meatloaf nugget,” on the mistaken assumption that anything nugget would appease the Revolutionaries.

Eh, it’s all okay.  Someday, they’ll eat broccoli and give me a heart attack. I can’t wait.

Spicy Chipotle Meatballs with Rice

serves 4

slightly adapted from Real Simple magazine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, grated or finely diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes

2-4 teaspoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, depending on your heat tolerance

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or bison

1/2 cup chopped parsley or cilantro, plus more for serving

1/4 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned or plain)

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

salt and pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. When oil shimmers, add the onion and half of the garlic and cook, stirring, until onion just begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes (with the juices) and chipotles. With a large spoon or a potato masher, break up the tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until the sauce has thickened a bit, about 20 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little water.

Cook rice according to package directions

As rice is cooking, combine beef/bison, parsley/cilantro/, bread crumbs, beaten egg, cumin, remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl; mix gently to combine. Form mixture into 16 small, unthreatening meatballs–(about 2 heaping teaspoons each).

Bring the sauce back up to a boil. Gently plop the meatballs into the sauce, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until meatballs are just cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.

Serve over rice and sprinkled with parsley/cilantro, if desired.

*We’ve got some ugly stuff on the docket this week, so if I don’t visit you, I hope you’ll give me a Get Out of Jail Free Pass.

**If you have a Food Nemesis from childhood, I’d love to hear about it. I had a roomie in college named Stacy who used to come home from school, open the door, and if she smelled Swiss Steak cooking, promptly flung herself onto the ground, screaming in terror.  I was pissed off when I heard that story because she totally trumped me in the drama department, because cauliflower night just made me freeze, not flail. Hmph. Stacy. That show-off.

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine @ Coffees & Commutes August 7, 2011 at 9:34 am

Meatloaf nuggets, love that!! They are hugely popular here. Take care this week!

My food nemesis is peas. I HATE PEAS.


TKW August 8, 2011 at 6:02 am

I hate peas, too. Except raw, in salads.


Katybeth August 7, 2011 at 10:57 am

I LOVE MEATBALLS. COMPLETELY. Joe made great ones and now his best friend who also makes great meatballs keeps them in our freezer at all times.

Ginger Snaps with white icing–which aren’t usually much of a problem but they served them once on that terrible airline UNITED and when the stewardess flung them on my snack tray it was not pretty.


TKW August 7, 2011 at 4:25 pm


Horrible, terrible airline. xo


koreen August 7, 2011 at 11:21 am

I’m a fan of the heat… both picante AND caliente… and I can’t wait to try this recipe. The meatballs around here tend to need fork and knife — they’re that damn big, they’d scare you — but we’re good with them that way. Heck, I’ll eat them any size if they taste good!


Sherri August 7, 2011 at 11:29 am

I, too, am a meatball lover. When I went vegetarian years ago, the only food I missed was meatballs! Lovin’ this recipe. Sending good thoughts your way this week too, btw.


bryan August 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Your card carrying membership to club quirky is what we love about you. I don’t really have any food oddities, maybe that is strange in it’s self.

Meatballs look great by the way and good sell with “meatloaf nuggets”



elizabeth August 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Polpette, albondigas, meatballs–I love ’em all. These look positively great!

My food nemesis? I have a few–melons, broccoli, sauerkraut. And good luck this week!


TKW August 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm


Even watermelon? The food of gods? I’m with you on the sauerkraut, though.


faemom August 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I heart meatballs too. My meatloaf is ok. But my meatballs rock. Which makes less sense than you loving meatballs and hating meatloaf.
Go Team Quirk!


TKW August 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm


Team Quirk! Huzzah and a Herky!


Kelly August 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I needed someone to warm up the paddles last month when Bella made the decision to like broccoli. She’d never let it pass her lips, so she had no clue what it tastes like, but she decided one day it would be good. She had some at lunch today and announced to the table, “Yep, still like it.”

Hope your ugly stuff turns out to be prettier than you anticipate.


TKW August 8, 2011 at 6:04 am


Did you slather it in anything, or did she eat it naked? Either way, I’m impressed.


camilla August 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I must be a member of the same group! I hate meatloaf, thinking about it gives me meat sweats but meat balls and chilli- I’m all over it.

Your photos are beautiful!


Meister @ The Nervous Cook August 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Ball, loaf, whatever — these look awesome. I’m so into it! (They might have to get turned into a meatball parm sammie in my house, though. I’m such a sucker for a meatball hoagie.)


TKW August 8, 2011 at 6:05 am


What area of the country do you live in? We never call them hoagies. We call them “subs.” I was just being nosy :)


Meister @ The Nervous Cook August 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I was born and raised a “sub” girl (heck, my dad went so far as to always call them completely “submarine sandwiches” — but he also calls jeans “dungarees,” so…), but I spent enough time in Philly for “hoagie” to sink in, and some college time in New England let some “grinder” slip in along the way, too.

Fun Fact! In Maine, all “sub”-style sandwiches are actually called “Italians,” where as where I’m from, an “Italian” is a very specific type of submarine sandwich: Salami, prosciutto, sausage, provolone, tomato, ribbons of lettuce, oregano, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil and red-wine vinegar to make the bread good and soggy.


Velva August 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm

This looks really good. I am planning on making these meatballs. I will let you know how they turn out.

I have a childhood nemesis….I would eat a can of chunk light tuna without batting any eye but put a real piece of fish on my plate, and I would gag (sigh). Makes no sense.



Erica@PLRH August 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

I’m so glad there’s another person out there that loves meatballs but loathes meatloaf! How do I get a Team Quirk t-shirt?

My food nemisis??? Lima Beans… aka Spawn of Satan.


TKW August 8, 2011 at 6:06 am


Lima beans are, indeed, the devil’s work.


Erica@PLRH August 7, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Whoops! I hit submit too soon.

Best of luck with your ugly stuff this week! Hugs!!!


Jane August 7, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I have a little boy who adores meatballs. I’ll have to cut back on the heat but this recipe sounds yummy! (Good luck this week. I’ll be thinking of you! xoxoxo)


Heather August 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Cauliflower Cheese Soup…. I’m pretty sure mom just threw steamed cauliflower (ewww) in a pot with melting Cheeze Whiz (double ewww). My step-dad was a stickler about all left overs being eaten – but only by the children. And my mom always made a vat of this shit. Made my stomach churn when I’d walk in the front door and smell it. Should be considered child abuse!


TKW August 8, 2011 at 6:07 am


“…And my mom always made a vat of this shit…” made me laugh out loud.


Stephane August 8, 2011 at 12:08 am

The smell of bell peppers: raw; cooked; only a-blossom-on-the-plant; channeled my inner Mr. Bill and made. me. want. to. york. (yak + hork = york.) No particularly noteworthy drama of which to boast. Only a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach and a face twisted all kinds of ugly. (“Mo-ther, WHAT did you DO to these EGGS?!”) Even now, I can remember *that* smell. The memory still makes me shudder. And I remember being a kid and watching a friend eat one raw–willingly–ON PURPOSE–and thinking she was certifiably insane. Are you kidding me?! Gaack!

I’m not sure what happened, or why or even how, but I guess my nose changed (but no, let’s not go there) and now bell peppers, in ALL colors, are my favorite! food. Oh well. A girl can change her mind. ; )

I hope the ugliness is briefer and less ugly than expected. Truly.


Stephane August 8, 2011 at 12:43 am

Cr@p. The wonders of perimenopause. “Bill the Cat.” Not “Mr. Bill.” Oh well. (I say that a lot!)


TKW August 8, 2011 at 6:08 am


We are sisters in hot flashes. Sigh.


BigLittleWolf August 8, 2011 at 7:24 am

I am a meatball fan. Um, except for Meatball as in “It’s All In The Family.” Before your time, I know…

(Pass the sauce…)


From Belgium August 8, 2011 at 7:30 am

celery, I hate celery with a hatred so big and burning that you could use the energy it generates to provide electrical power for the whole city of Las Vegas for 500 years


TKW August 8, 2011 at 9:20 am


I adore celery. More proof that I am odd.


Jenna August 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

I don’t fear The Loaf! I used to, back when it was just a big meaty idea in my brain, but once I actually sat down at a dinner table and had a piece of succulent meatloaf with a delicious sauce all over it, I’ve never been afraid again.
That said, I wouldn’t turn down mini meatballs any day either. Especially spicy chipotle ones!


Gale @ TDT August 8, 2011 at 8:55 am

I rarely cook meatballs because so many of the recipes call to sautee them, or cook them in mini-muffin tins, or some such nonsense. I find all of those utterly tedious. Cooking them in the sauce, though, is something I could go for. And I’m a fan of anything using chipotles in adobo.

As for childhood food nemesis (nemeses?), mine were mostly strong flavors that overpowered my tender palate. Mustard, dill pickles, grapefruit, etc. Wasn’t a huge fan of tomatoes either, but that was a texture issue. Now I love all of these things, although I top my grapefruits with a shameful amount of sugar…


TKW August 8, 2011 at 9:21 am


You hated pickles? I will be your friend anyway. As a kid, I hated mustard, too. Do all kids hate it, or just us?


Chiara August 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

I love chipotle in pretty much anything, I can only imagine how wonderful it is in meatballs!


Amber August 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

Mmmm I adore rice and “mini-meatballs” but have never thought of putting them together! I can’t wait to tell Ben about this! I know he will want to make it immediately. : )

I refuse to eat seafood. I have tried, but the very smell of fishy has me gagging. Ugh.


leslie August 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I’m Odd too..so it’s ok! Love the spicy little meatballs


Tiffany August 8, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I never thought about them as meatloaf nuggets, but they are! I love them both. These look declicious!

Hang in there this week…what else can you do, right? Hugs to you all.

I think my food nemesis was when my Dad went ice fishing b/c I knew we would be eating deep fried perch every night for about a month. Blech.


TKW August 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm


A month of anything is too much. Well, maybe anything except cherries. :)


Mary Lee August 9, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Since I didn’t like anything but banana sandwiches as a kid, I won’t bore you with a list of dislikes. Of course I was living with my grandmother then and she was cooking crap like brains and eggs, rutabagas, and fried mackerel. With bones.

However, the queen of picky eating was my youngest daughter. Our son, who sat across from her at the table, would ask us to not make her take a bite of the veggie of the day until he’d finished eating because he found it difficult to maintain an appetite after her projectile vomiting. Oddly, she wrote a post just the other day about how the joys of having a weekly delivery of fresh, organic vegetables. I almost choked. How she has changed! Thank goodness her oldest son hates everything except spaghetti and cheese pizza.

My mother was right; the taste of revenge is sweet, indeed.


TKW August 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Mary Lee,

No kid should have to eat eggs and rutabagas and brains. Ewww.

Miss M. would love your youngest daughter (before the veggie box). Put a veg in front of Miss M. and she does the most dramatic gag/spit routine. Horrible, but it’s hard not to laugh at the theatrics.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri August 10, 2011 at 9:54 am

The “Bitter Melon” vegetable (called Karela in India) is my food nemesis. Ugh. Just saying the word brings back childhood nightmares of trying to stuff it in my mouth.

Wishing you& Mama strength this week. xoxo


Rocky Mountain Woman August 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Meatballs rock!

Need some right now…..


Maria August 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Ahh, meatballs! Food of the gods…

Could ground turkey be substituted for ground beef? You know, Hubby’s cholestrol numbers would not be good if this piece of heaven was set before him in all it’s red meat glory…

Food nemesis: Lima beans and baked ham…Yuck!


sophia August 10, 2011 at 7:12 pm

A wee meatloaf nugget? Haha, what a great way to describe it! Of course I’ll go heavy on the chipotle. I’ll eat it with kimchi, too.

(hugs) and hope you pull through whatever it is going on!


Foodiewife August 11, 2011 at 10:12 am

So, um, I guess my #1 most viewed recipe for The Best Meatloaf doesn’t grab your attention… I get it. I make it for the men in my life. I’m not a meatball fan, but my men are. I do love chipotle and cilantro, so guess who’s bookmarked this one?


TKW August 14, 2011 at 5:26 am


Your #1 most viewed recipe is for meatloaf?! What kind of aliens are out there?

Can’t throw stones though, because for the first two years of my blog, my most popular was for stuffed cabbage rolls. Ha!


pamela August 13, 2011 at 9:29 pm

I love these posts that weave your life into your cooking. I can taste the love!!!!!!! I can also practically taste the meatballs (sigh). I am pretty much meat-free but just can’t find a meat-free substitute for meatballs. Sometimes I cheat and eat them. These look delish! xo


TKW August 14, 2011 at 5:25 am


“Pretty much meat-free?” !!! The Horror!

This is, of course, spoken by a bacon addict. At least you cheat. I like that in a person. xo


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