Make Ahead

Fish "Meatballs" in Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

August  9, 2010
Author Notes

This is a really great spin on traditional spaghetti and meatballs if you are having a pescatarian to dinner. The "fishballs" use the same basic flavor components, and once seared on the stove, actually resemble real meatballs. - BigGirlPhoebz —PhoebeLapine

Test Kitchen Notes

I tend to think of meatballs as a labor-intensive all-day task — a Sunday dinner kind of dish. But these tasty morsels were prepped, cooked and on the table in a half an hour, putting them squarely in weekday meal territory. And they were impressive, too. Full of flavor and great contrasts of textures, I could just as easily imagine them served on fancy toothpicks for a cocktail party as over spaghetti for a quick meal. - vrunka —The Editors

  • Serves 2
  • For the "Meatballs"
  • 1 slice white bread, crusts removed
  • 1/2 lb white fish (I used tilapia, but whatever is on sale), coarsely chopped
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup parsley leaves
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • 2 cups spicy red pepper sauce (recipe follows)
  • Spicy Red Pepper Sauce
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • One 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
In This Recipe
  1. For the "Meatballs"
  2. In a small food processor, pulse the bread until it resembles crumbs. Set aside in a medium mixing bowl. Add the fish to the processor and pulse until resembling the texture of ground beef. Remove to the bowl. Add the shallot, garlic, and parsley and mince in the processor. Toss together with the bread crumbs, fish, egg, salt, and pepper. Form the mixture into balls, about 1 1/2 inches wide, and set aside on a cutting board. You should have about 8 balls.
  3. Coat a large lidded skillet or saute pan with olive oil and set it over medium-high heat. Brown the fish balls in batches until seared on both sides. Set aside.
  4. Clean out any burnt bits from the pan. Either add premade Spicy Red Pepper sauce, or follow the directions below to make it. When the sauce is finished and simmering, add the balls back to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, covered, then turn the balls in the sauce and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the balls are cooked through completely.
  5. To serve, place a forkful of spaghetti on each plate and top with a spoonful of sauce and 4 meatballs. Garnish with parsley.
  1. Spicy Red Pepper Sauce
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and red pepper in enough olive oil to coat the pan. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Add the paprika, cayenne, garlic, and cook for another 2 minutes, until the mixture is very fragrant. Add the salt, and carefully stir in the tomatoes. Simmer until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables are very tender, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and taste again for seasoning. Puree in a food processor or with an imersion blender until smooth. (This can be made up to a week in advance).

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Phoebe is a writer, gluten-free chef, culinary instructor, award-winning blogger, and author of The Wellness Project. You can find her healthy comfort food and gluten-free finds on