Going WAY back now! To one of the very first “fancy” dishes that I taught myself to make after leaving my parent’s nest! “Sweet ‘n Sour Meatballs” that seemed like some kind of magical Asian secret!
I was 18, and really first learning how to cook all on my own. No help. No guidance. Just me, scared I’d set the kitchen on fire, and a few cookbooks that were wedding gifts!
Making that very first meal really was almost terrifying. My Mom and Grandma had always used electric stoves that had the molten-hot, bright red coils, and this was a gas stove! Me + flames didn’t seem like a very good idea….
Although I had cooked a little over open flames, (homemade “bunsen burner coffee cans” and a Coleman camping stove in Girl Scouts), this was different. And there was always someone right there to guide and help!
But I really had a deep desire to learn, and dove right in headfirst!
I learned a lot from making this recipe! (Like how NOT to set my hot pad on fire when using a gas stove). Don’t ask.
And that recipes really aren’t some kind of secret mystery. Even ones that take a few hours aren’t actually “difficult”.
This one is not only easy, but I think, if you’ve never made a sauce like this before, that you’ll get just as much of a kick out of the transformation of the sauce as I did! It really was actually magical! 😀
But first, the meatballs! Don’t do like they do on TV. Break up the meat and kind of loosely sprinkle it into the bowl spreading it out so it’s shallow, not in a tall pile.
And don’t plop the whole measuring spoons of ingredients right on top in the middle. Especially salt. Sprinkle it evenly across so that one person at the table doesn’t choke, and the rest are thinking that you forgot to add any salt at all. There’s no way that you’re going to get the ingredients evenly mixed into the meat if you just plop it in.
Don’t over mix until it’s pâté, but do make sure that you get all of the ingredients combined into the meat well and evenly.
And lastly, unless you want to stand over the stove chasing meatballs all around the pan for 20 to 30 minutes, just bake them! They come out so much prettier! And while they’re baking, you can get mess one cleaned up and start making mess two. 😉
When I first learned to make this, I just used a 20 ounce can of pineapple chunks in heavy syrup. And that still works just fine. Nothing wrong with it at all. But I’ve come a “little ways” since those days, and now prefer to use fresh pineapple whenever possible. The amounts for both are included below, but if you can get fresh, go that route. Fresh is, of course, always so much better!
So you just slice and dice your veggies and fruit, and add all of your sauce ingredients into a nice, large, deep frying pan with a lid.
You bring the cloudy liquid to boil, stirring gently and constantly, and as it comes up to temperature, the sauce will thicken and turn clear! A gorgeous, deep, rich colored sauce! That’s the “magic” part that happens due to the cornstarch.
Then pop a tight-fitting lid on it, and turn the heat down low so that it can simmer and cook the veggies without burning or scorching. Just stir every now and then.
During the last 5 minutes, gently fold in your baked meatballs, and simmer 5 more minutes. That’s all there is to it! 😀
I admit, when I was first learning to cook, I used to serve this over Minute Rice. Yep. I did. It was easy for me and a no-fret way that I could make “rice” all at the same time while the sauce was simmering. And I didn’t know how to make “real” rice.
Thankfully, I do make homemade rice now! So just make whatever you feel comfortable doing. You can make the rice after the Sweet ‘n Sour Meatballs are done, too, if you want. The meatballs and sauce reheat over low heat easily, so no worries. And if you like those crunchy chow mien noodles, you can simply serve this over those, too. They’re really fun sprinkled over the top of the dish, too!
So if you’re just learning how to cook, and want to make a nice dish for the ones you love, or even company, this would be a nice one for you to try! And relax! It ain’t rocket science! You can do this! 😀
- For the Meatballs:
- 1 lb. lean ground beef, broken up well
- ⅓ cup italian-seasoned dry breadcrumbs
- ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp. oregano
- 1½ tsp. dried minced onions
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. coarse ground black pepper
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 beaten egg
- ½ tsp. worcestershire sauce
- extra pepper and a little salt on top before baking
- For the Sauce:
- ¾ cups packed dark brown sugar
- 3 Tbl. cornstarch
- ⅓ cup rice or regular distilled vinegar
- 1 Tbl. regular soy sauce, (if subbing low-sodium you may need to add a pinch of salt)
- 1¼ cups pineapple juice, *see notes about pineapple and juice
- 2½ cups fresh pineapple chunks
- ¼ large red onion, large diced (1 slightly rounded cup)
- 1 large red sweet cubanelle or red bell pepper, large diced, (1 - 1¼ cups)
- (*serve over hot cooked rice)
- can sprinkle servings with crunchy chow mein noodles if desired
- For the Meatballs: In large bowl, mix all ingredients WELL with hands. Pat into a mound, divide into fourths, and make 5 meatballs out of each section totaling 20. Place onto sprayed or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with more pepper. Bake in 375º oven for 26-28 minutes. Remove from sheet with spatula scraping away any released fat and place onto plate lined with paper towel. Cover and set aside.
- For the Rest: In large deep frying pan with lid, add dark brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce and pineapple juice. Stir until well mixed. Add pineapple chunks, onion and peppers.
- Over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer stirring constantly. Sauce will go from cloudy to translucent and thickened. Turn down heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add meatballs, stir in gently, recover and simmer another 5 minutes until meatballs are heated through and completely done inside.
- While sauce and meatballs are cooking, make rice.
- When all is done, serve sweet & sour meatballs over rice. Sprinkle top with crunchy chow mein noodles if desired.
- Sweet King's Hawaiian rolls go very well with this!
**If using 6 oz. cans of pineapple juice, you can use that last leftover ¼ cup in place of ¼ cup of the water when cooking your rice so it doesn't go to waste.