Recipe Road Test: Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Zucchini

Seira Wilson on April 05, 2017

AddAPinch200I made these meatballs from Robyn Stone's cookbook, Add a Pinch,with my 10-year old daughter and was amazed at how quickly they came together.  I had leftover applesauce I wanted to use up so didn't make my own, but this is one of the most delicious (and simple!) weeknight dinners I've made in a long time.  When my family saw me putting down the shaved zucchini there was some skepticism, but after the first bite with all the elements together, they were hooked. In fact, when went I went back to the kitchen to make a portion to photograph, every last meatball was gone.  Next time I'm going to make a double batch and freeze them (directions in the recipe below), for a great back-up meal when you have zero time and people to feed.

 *Add a Pinch is one of our editors picks for the Best Cookbooks of April


As a busy wife and mother, I know how daunting it can be to make homemade meals from scratch while juggling all of a family’s daily activities. In Add a Pinch: Easier, Faster, Fresher Southern Classics, I share my cherished family recipes, which I’ve made-over for the way we eat and live today.

I grew up learning traditional Southern dishes from my Mama and Grandmother, but as I got older (and busier!) I found it was harder and harder to find time to make those heirloom recipes. Yet once I had a family of my own, I knew I wanted to return to those roots of home-cooked, delicious meals. So I started updating the classic Southern recipes I grew up with for my busy modern lifestyle. And that’s what you’ll find in my book. The more than 100 recipes all have something special to them—they’re ready in 30 minutes or less, they require 10 ingredients or fewer, they’re freezer-friendly, or they can be made in the slow cooker. Each feature is called out with a handy icon, which means you’ll easily be able to plan your weekly meals based on recipes that fit your needs. The book also includes ideas for Leftover Makeovers, ways to remake many of your meals into a just-as-exciting dish for another night!

SweetandSourMeatballsWithZucchini350HOne of my favorite meals growing up was always my Mama’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs. The natural sweetness of applesauce (a recipe for homemade is included!) mingled with the tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, and the brightness of lemon make for a mighty tasty dish. I love to cook large batches of the meatballs over the weekend to make weeknight meals even easier. When I’m ready to whip up this recipe, I reheat them in the sweet and sour sauce, and then serve over shaved zucchini. Talk about scrumptious! --Robyn Stone


Mama’s sweet-and-sour meatballs were legendary at our house when I was growing up. Whenever she made them, there was no need to ask us to come to the table more than once. Now that I cook them for my own family, I see why she loved making them as much as we loved eating them—talk about simple! These meatballs are delicious any way that you serve them, but I especially love them over a bed of  shaved zucchini, which is much lighter than pasta (and adds some veggies!).

2 pounds lean ground beef
½ medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup Applesauce (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon
Worcestershire sauce

½ medium onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper,
3 cups tomato sauce
¼ cup Applesauce (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon fresh
Lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
5 medium zucchini, shaved into thin strips with a vegetable peeler
Grated or shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, applesauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Using a tablespoon measure or a spoon, shape the mixture into 2-inch meatballs.

2. In a 12-inch skillet set over medium heat, working in batches, cook the meatballs, turning occasionally to ensure that all sides brown, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to large bowl. Discard any drippings left in the pan.

3. Make the sauce: In the same skillet, set over medium heat, combine the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, applesauce, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Serve over the zucchini strips, sprinkled with the Parmesan.

leftover makeover
Reheat leftover meatballs and sauce in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Spoon the meatballs and sauce into yeast rolls (page 182) for a delicious sandwich.

3 large sweet apples, such as Honeycrisp or Macintosh, peeled and cored
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
½ cup water, apple juice, or apple cider

Cut the apples into wedges and put them in a large saucepan. Add the water, set the pot over low heat, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the apples are easily mashed with the back of a spoon, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Working in batches, process the apples in a food processor or blender until the sauce reaches the consistency you prefer. The applesauce will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for a year.

freezer friendly
Cook a few batches of meatballs, let them cool completely, arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, and flash freeze for 15 minutes. Then transfer to freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For a quick weeknight meal, thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in a saucepan over medium heat in the sauce or a tablespoon of olive oil.


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