Make Ahead

Fish "Meatballs" in Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

August  9, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 2
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • student epicure
    student epicure
  • jen_c
  • theicp
  • Jaynerly
  • lastnightsdinner
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

12 Reviews

gonefishing July 23, 2011
I made these tonight with Mahi-Mahi we caught today. Very, very good. I used cilantro instead of parsley and red onion instead of shallots because that's what I had on hand. I also deglazed the pan with a little sherry before adding the sauce. Will make again, thanks!
MrsBonchaTheCook June 19, 2011
Just made these, sauce and all, for a special dinner with my husband.

The fish meatballs themselves were super easy to make and great flavor with fresh parsley. Unlike turkey meatballs, these keep their moisture really well, which is awesome.

Warning to those who try to make the sauce in the same pan as the immersion blender is a bad idea! sauce went everywhere since it was so spread out in the pan. You'll be better off giving it a quick grind in your food processor, or even just using store bought sauce. The sauce was OK, next time I would add some red pepper flakes to make it more spicy!

Awesome recipe on the fish meatballs, though! Two thumbs up!
student E. April 8, 2011
Yum! Made this tonight for dinner -- super easy and delicious. The sauce really brings it together. I doubled the fish balls and that was just enough for the pasta sauce.
jen_c March 26, 2011
I'm going to make these this week, my kids love fish and meatballs so I imagine they will be a winner.
Effie January 6, 2011
I made this last night. I followed the recipe with one minor exception - I added fresh oregano, thyme and basil because I had on hand and needed to use. It was relevatory!!!! I loved it and brought the leftovers for lunch today.
theicp August 19, 2010
These sound great! Saving now.
Jaynerly August 10, 2010
These sound delicious! As a non red meat eater who gets bored with chicken I love this recipe!
lastnightsdinner August 9, 2010
Mmmm! I love making tuna polpette, so I will definitely have to try these!
Cara E. August 9, 2010
I can't wait to try these!
AntoniaJames August 9, 2010
Love this. An absolute "must-try," it's already been saved to my recipes. I'll report back, soon! ;o)
Lizthechef August 9, 2010
My favorite fish tacos sold here are called a "pesky combo" - love your "pesky meatballs"!
PhoebeLapine August 11, 2010
Fantastic title, Liz! Love all pesky foods and flavors.