Tuna Meatballs

When  I visited Eataly last month, my friends and I had some luscious tuna meatballs that I’ve been wanting to re-create at home. The tuna meatballs tasted incredibly meaty and not at all fishy. They also tasted lighter and not as cloying or heavy as regular meatballs sometimes can be, yet it was still a hearty and comforting dish.

I’ve never made tuna meatballs before so I researched some recipes online. I wanted to make tuna polpette (mini meatballs) just because I like mini versions and bite-sized food. To stay true to the spirit of Eataly, I could’ve followed Mario Batali’s recipe, but it required turning on the oven to bake the polpette and it was too hot to do that (no-bake dishes are really much better for the summer). So I turned to the queen of easy, no fuss meals: Rachael Ray.

Rachael Ray has a recipe for Puttanesca with Tuna Polpette and Penne. I followed her instructions just for the tuna meatballs, mostly because I don’t like puttanesca (not a fan of olives).

Tuna Meatballs

(recipe and instructions adapted from Rachael Ray’s recipe for tuna polpette)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for tuna
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock (you can also use chicken or beef stock)
1 pound tuna steak
1 large egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
a handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, shredded
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the garlic and chili pepper flakes, turn heat to low and saute for a couple of minutes.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, then stir in stock. Let sauce simmer while you make the tuna meatballs.

Cut tuna into chunks and grind in food processor into coarse mixture. You can also just chop the tuna by hand (I did). Incorporate the egg, bread crumbs and parsley and season with a little salt and black pepper. Transfer the tuna mixture from the processor to a bowl and add a drizzle of olive oil. Stir to combine.

my tuna mixture had a texture similar to tuna tartare

Roll the tuna into 2-inch balls and drop into the sauce. Cover the pot and simmer the tuna balls in the sauce for about 5 to 7 minutes.

garnish with shredded basil

These tuna meatballs were exactly what I wanted them to be: substantial and meaty, but didn’t weigh me down. I served them on top of some wilted spinach and a crusty french bread but of course they pair perfectly with some pasta too.

And yes, I realize that I’ve been talking about meatballs a lot in the last few months: meatballs at Posto, Eataly, Coppa, Stone Hearth Pizza, and Alma Nove. I like meatballs and I’m proud of it. I also like Nutella Cake Balls and Oreo Balls. Balls of food are fun.

On an unrelated note: if you like Sex and the City check out my review of Summer and the City, which is a prequel to SATC – it’s about Carrie when she first moved to New York. It’s a fun summer read if you’re looking for some chick lit!


19 Responses to “Tuna Meatballs”

  1. #
    Elizabeth posted June 16, 2011 at 8:19 am

    I remember you telling us about this at Stone Hearth! Very cool, but I might prefer more cake balls :)

  2. #
    Victoria (District Chocoholic) posted June 16, 2011 at 8:57 am

    This is really cool! I have made salmon meatballs with a lemon-caper sauce before, but never tuna meatballs. I have no idea why it hasn’t occurred to me.

  3. #
    Erin @ A Nesting Experience posted June 16, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Such a great idea. I’ve never thought of making meatballs with tuna. They sound super tasty.

  4. #
    Three-Cookies posted June 16, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Never tried tuna meatball, sounds interesting. I ate a lot of tuna when I lived in the South Pacific, but never as meatballs. Wish I got such ideas and inspiration when I was there

  5. #
    Megan posted June 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

    These sound amazing… and I love that you made them mini too. The presentation is awesome!

  6. #
    christina posted June 16, 2011 at 9:12 am

    YUM! Those sound awesome…and look so pretty!

  7. #
    Daisy posted June 16, 2011 at 9:15 am

    awesome balls!

  8. #
    Louisa posted June 16, 2011 at 9:34 am

    These sound scrummy! I’ve never even thought of tuna meatballs before, this will most definitely be gracing my garden table this summer!

  9. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted June 16, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I remember you telling me about these at Stone hearth and I love that you used real tuna steak. Can tuna kind of grosses me out but this looks light and fresh!

  10. #
    miriam posted June 16, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Neat idea! And very summery – I’ve been into fish lately (when am I not?!) and never thought to prepare tuna this way. Hmmm….

  11. #
    MelissaNibbles posted June 16, 2011 at 11:06 am

    This looks delicious. I would never ever think to use tuna. Very creative!

  12. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted June 16, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Yum! I love making tuna meat sauce, so I am sure I would love these!

  13. #
    Michelle posted June 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    I have been on such a tuna kick lately and it is no surprise that we’re on the same wavelength! :-)

  14. #
    Susan posted June 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    You always show us the craziest take on a simple thing, I love it!

  15. #
    dan posted June 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Ive made tuna burgers that were very similar to this recipe, but I never thought of making them into meatballs! I had my first fish meatballs recently at tapas and they were pretty great. Don’t feel bad talking about meatballs too much, they are the best!

  16. #
    Rachel @Healthy_Chicks posted June 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Wow, they actually look like real meatballs, and the texture is fabulous! I will have to try these out – I love all kinds of seafood but have to say I’ve never tried tuna meatballs. Great idea!

    Also, thanks for the SATC recommendation. I’m a fellow addict. Guilty as charged.

  17. #
    Lea @ Healthy Coconut posted June 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I am intrigued by this dish. I have never heard of a tuna meatball or thought it would be good. But I love all things fish and I want to try it.

    Do you think it will work with canned tuna? or other type of fresh fish. I have a lot of fish in the freezer but none of them are tuna steak.

    I made lumpia before using salmon strips. Interesting but good.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted June 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      Hey Lea, one of my friends tried it with canned tuna and I think it turned out a little soggy, so I would advise using fresh instead. And yeah, I bet it would work with other kinds of fish! Maybe try swordfish (but just make sure you cook it thoroughly) or even salmon. Salmon lumpia sounds great!


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