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Recipes that remind us of Mom

4. Porcupine meatballs recipe

Porcupine meatballs recipe
Image: Karen Miner/SheKnows

Deciding on a dish that most reminds me of Mom is easy because there are only a handful to choose from. Not because she was stuck in a rut, making the same recipes week after week, but because my mom wasn’t the cook of the family… That task fell to my dad. So when Mom was in the kitchen, you knew you could count on certain dishes coming out. And the dish I wished for with all my heart was porcupines — super-simple meatballs with rice poking out, cooked in a super-simple sauce.

To this day, the smell of classic Campbell’s condensed tomato soup instantly transports me back in time. What is it about this simple meal that I fell so hard for? There are minimal ingredients, none of them fancy, and nothing especially extraordinary about this dish. Except that my mom made it, which makes all the difference.

Even now, 25 years later, though I am tempted to modify any and all recipes I come across, I make this one as written. And for my money, I’ll take my mom’s version over mine any day. Because doesn’t it just taste better when it’s made by Mom, no matter how old you are?

Serves 4


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup white rice, uncooked
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (10-3/4-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh basil or parsley


  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, rice, egg, parsley, onion, salt, pepper and 1/4 of the soup.
  2. Shape into approximately 18 small balls, and place them in a large skillet with a lid.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the remaining soup, water and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the meatballs in the skillet.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the skillet, and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked, shaking the pan occasionally to coat the meatballs with sauce.
  5. Serve with sauce over rice or spaghetti, or enjoy it plain. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if desired.

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