Cheesy baked rice meatballs. Slowly cooked in a bright bubbly marinara under a blanket of mozzarella. It’s fuss-free and all made in one skillet! Serve with crusty bread for an epic meatball dinner everyone will love.
Why you’ll love these delicious cheesy baked meatballs with rice
These meatballs are an easy, budget-friendly dinner. Part of what makes this recipe so easy is that you don’t have to sear the meatballs first. The heat of the oven is enough to fully cook the meatballs and lock in their moisture. Skipping the browning step also helps to cut back on prep time, making this casserole a fuss-free dinner.
We also don’t need to cook the rice before we add it to the meat mixture. We actually add half a cup of milk to the ground meat, the rice absorbs it during cooking and the grains soften. The tomato sauce also helps the rice to soften.
Speaking of the sauce, this one couldn’t be easier. We combine crushed tomatoes with salt, black pepper, sweet paprika, some Italian seasoning and a pinch of chili flakes. It simmers while the meatballs cook and melt with the aromatics, but still remains nice and vibrant. So good!
Let me guide you through the recipe with this step-by-step VIDEO or follow along on YouTube.
Easier than this… no way!
Here’s what you need to make these Rice Meatballs.
- Ground Meat: A blend of beef and pork give for juicy, tender meatballs. Ground chicken would also work well here.
- Rice: Use white rice or Basmati rice. You can also swap it for barley, couscous or quinoa.
- Milk: To add moisture so the rice can absorb it during cooking. You can use whole milk or low fat milk.
- Parmesan: For flavorful meatballs.
- Crushed tomatoes: The base for our marinara sauce.
- Seasoning: salt, black pepper, garlic powder, dried onion, sweet paprika, chili flakes and Italian seasoning. The chili flakes are optional, but they add a punchy kick.
- Herbs: Fresh parsley.
- Mozzarella: As a finishing touch.
- You can also make these meatballs with leftover cooked rice. Just use one cup cooked rice instead of the uncooked rice and add only 3 tablespoons milk to the meatball mixture.
- I love to serve these baked meatballs with thick slices of toasted bread and a simple green salad. Of course, you can also spoon the meatballs over polenta or mashed potatoes.
- You can easily make the meatballs in advance and bake them off later, but because the meatballs are uncooked, you don’t want to prep it more than one day in advance. To do so, assemble the casserole all the way up until you bake it, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and store in the fridge. When ready to bake, preheat the oven, unwrap the casserole, and bake as directed.
- Did you know that rice-stuffed meatballs are called porcupine meatballs? They’re such a classic dish, the rice in the meatballs resembles the quills of a porcupine when cooked, hence the name.
How to store rice-stuffed meatballs
- Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Meatballs freeze incredibly well, so go ahead and make a double batch. Just arrange any you want to freeze in a single layer in a baking dish, add the tomato sauce, cover tightly with plastic wrap and store for up to 3 months. Just thaw them overnight in the fridge before baking.
Try these next
- Chicken Drumsticks with Tomatoes and White Beans
- Baked Eggplant Rollatini
- Chicken Feta Meatballs
- Moroccan Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Cheesy Baked Meatballs with Rice
- 9 ounces ground beef
- 9 ounces ground pork
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried onion
- 3 tbsp grated Parmesan
- ½ cup uncooked rice
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- ½ cup milk
- 1 can (28 oz/800 g) crushed tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp chili flakes less or more to taste
- 7 ounces grated mozzarella
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
- In a bowl, combine crushed tomatoes with salt, pepper, sweet paprika, Italian seasoning and chili flakes. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, place the ground meat, egg yolk, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried onion, Parmesan, uncooked rice, parsley and milk. Gently mix with your hands until just combined. The mixture should be slightly wet.
- Form the mixture into meatballs, about 3 tablespoons each. You should have about 18 meatballs. Place in an ovenproof skillet or a baking dish. It’s fine if the meatballs are touching each other.
- Pour in the prepared tomato sauce. Place a lid or cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with mozzarella and continue baking, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and golden brown, 15 minutes more. Garnish with parsley leaves. Enjoy!