Mexican Meatballs with Red Chile Tomato Sauce and Queso Fresco

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 20 min
  • Prep: 35 min
  • Cook: 45 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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Red Chile Tomato Sauce: 

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons ancho chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, processed until smooth

One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes and their juice, processed until smooth

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Clover honey, to taste, optional 

1 to 2 tablespoons Mexican crema

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Mexican Meatballs:

1/3 pound chorizo, very cold, cubed

1/3 pound chuck, very cold, cubed

1/3 pound pork butt, very cold, cubed

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish

1/4 cup freshly grated Cotija cheese

1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder 

2 teaspoons Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 3/4 cups chicken stock

Queso fresco, for garnish

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish


Special equipment:
Hand-operated meat grinder
  1. For the red chile tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a 12-inch high-sided saute pan over high heat. Cook the onions and jalapenos until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, and then stir in the chili powder and coriander and cook 1 minute. Pour in 1 cup water and cook until reduced. Mix in the chipotles and tomatoes and bring a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper and honey, if using. Whisk in the crema, followed by the cilantro, and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
  2. For the mexican meatballs: Grind the cubed meats using a hand-operated meat grinder fit with a medium dye. Combine the ground meats with the garlic and egg in a large bowl, and then add in 1/4 cup of the cilantro, the cheese, New Mexico chili powder, Mexican oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper. Gently mix together until combined. Begin mixing in the breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture holds together. Mix in some salt and black pepper, and form the meat into 2-inch balls. Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs, turning occasionally, until brown all over, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and cook until the liquid is mostly reduced and the meatballs are just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes longer. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the Red Chile Tomato Sauce, queso fresco and additional cilantro leaves.

Cook’s Note

For optimal meat grinding, the equipment must be kept as cold as possible until ready to use.