Italian Porcupine Balls are ground beef and rice meatballs, simmered in a tomato broth, a delicious and easy dinner!

Italian Porcupine Balls

Do you have any meals that instantly remind you of home? There are just some meals for me that instantly take me back to when I was young. Meals like chili over elbow noodles and breaded chicken cutlets make me feel like I am in my grandmother’s kitchen. When I have spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove, I feel like I’m 10 again and sitting at the kitchen table of my childhood home, anxiously awaiting for dinner to be ready.

Italian Porcupine BallsStuffed peppers also remind me of childhood dinners and while I liked the peppers, my Mom always threw in a porcupine ball or two for me to eat as well!

Italian Porcupine BallsIf you have never heard of a porcupine ball, it is basically the filling mixture that you use to stuff peppers, it is just “naked” without the pepper. They are little meatballs with rice sticking out, thus the name porcupine balls! They look like prickly meatballs! These are so simple and require so few ingredients.

Italian Porcupine BallsI like to throw in Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, garlic, and parmesan cheese both for flavor and to help keep the meat together, thus I have dubbed mine Italian Porcupine Balls. I also like to garnish ours with more parmesan cheese for some extra flavor!

Italian Porcupine Balls I struggle with ground beef recipes. I find myself defrosting a pound of beef and then never know what to do with it and always resort to tacos. Tacos are delicious and a family favorite, but I like to mix it up sometimes. I asked for recipe ideas on Facebook one day and my friend Whitney suggested porcupine balls and I was dumbstruck! What a great idea! Whitney also shared the recipe for Salisbury Steak Meatballs with me which we love too! She is good with the ground beef recipes!

Italian Porcupine BallsI always associated porcupine balls with stuffed peppers and never thought of making them on their own! I usually don’t have a bunch of large peppers on hand for stuffed peppers, but I do always have ground beef, rice, and tomato sauce. It is such an easy to throw together dinner and my daughter thinks the name is so funny.

Italian Porcupine Balls

Have you had porcupine balls before? If you haven’t, you have to try this easy and tasty recipe!

Italian Porcupine Balls


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3/4-1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 28.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz. water
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil


  1. In a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, rice, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and salt, pepper, and garlic powder. If you like a lot of rice, add the entire cup, if not, just add 1/2-3/4 cups of rice.
  2. Mix well with your hands until the rice and breadcrumbs are well mixed.
  3. Roll meat mixture into 2 inch round balls. You should get 10-12.
  4. In a large, heavy bottomed skillet, add a tbsp. of olive oil. When hot, add porcupine balls. Pour the can of crushed tomatoes over the balls. Fill the empty can half full with water and then pour into the skillet. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over the the porcupine balls.
  5. Cover the pan and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid and stir, making sure they aren't sticking. Flip balls carefully so that they don't fall apart. You want the top to be immersed in the tomato sauce now. Reduce heat to low.
  6. Cook for another 15 minutes, covered. After 15 minutes, stir again. Let simmer another 15-20 minutes, or until rice is cooked through.
  7. Serve immediately or let simmer on low until dinner time.

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Italian Seasoned Porcupine Balls

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16 thoughts on “Italian Porcupine Balls

  1. Yes I also have recipes that instantly remind me of home and transport me back to my childhood! Did not know that the stuffing for stuffed peppers when on it’s own is called porcupine balls! So brilliant! Being Russian I grew up with stuffed peppers and cabbage and loved both dishes but these look amazing too!

  2. I love this recipe! So cosy and warming, the name definitely made me look twice though! So glad you’re not eating porcupines!!

  3. These look simple and yummy, Amanda! The name is funny, too. Haha. At first, it made me think that this recipe uses porcupines as ingredients. Glad it isn’t.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  4. Oh my gosh, these look amazing. LOVE porcupine balls, and I know my kiddos will too. This is going on the dinner menu very, very soon!

    1. Thanks Julie! I usually make some sort of biscuit or a roll and then a salad!

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