Recipe: Rustic Meatball and Tomato Stew


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“Rustic” in this recipe means that you’ll want to keep the tomatoes, celery and carrots as whole as possible, to retain their texture and visual aspect.

Type of dish: Lunch, Dinner
Equipment: Large sauté pan, mortar and pestle
Servings: 4


For the Meatballs:

  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef (preferably grass fed)
  • 1 onion, skinned and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (ground fennel if you don’t have a mortar and pestle)
  • 3+2 TB traditional fat of choice (ghee, lard, tallow, duck fat, etc.)
  • 1 tsp salt to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • black pepper

For the Stew:

  • 4 medium carrots, sliced into 2″ diagonal pieces
  • 2 large celery stalks (preferably peeled), sliced into 2″ diagonal pieces
  • 2 cans of WHOLE plum/Roma tomatoes, drained
  • 1 onion, skinned and cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 TB Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes (optional)
  • fresh basil, chopped for garnish


The Meatballs:

  1. Coarsely grind fennel seeds and add to all other ingredients (reserve 3 TB/45ml fat for frying), and mix well.
  2. Heat the 3 TB/45ml fat in the sauté pan and fry a small portion of the mixture to taste test for salt; add salt if necessary.
  3. Shape meatballs (about the size of a golfball), and fry until well browned and firm (5 min). Remember that the meatballs will be simmered in the stew later, so at this stage don’t overcook.
  4. Remove the meatballs and set aside.

The stew:

  1. In the sauté pan briefly fry the onion and garlic.
  2. Add the stock, bring to a boil and add all other ingredients except tomatoes and Balsamic vinegar.
  3. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and let simmer until the carrots and celery are tender.
  4. Add the meatballs, whole tomatoes and Balsamic vinegar and simmer uncovered for 15 min.
  5. Taste for salt.
  6. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with chopped basil.


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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Laura says

    This showed up in Flipboard the morning I was looking for a new ground beef recipe–perfect timing. I made this last night and it’s really great! I love the flavor profile with the fennel and basil. Thanks!

  2. Preston says

    I thought we were not supposed to use olive oil for high heat cooking, due to high n-6 PUFA, which would oxidize when heated?

    • Chris Kresser says

      Thanks for catching that—it was a mistake. I changed it to “3+2 TB traditional fat of choice (ghee, lard, tallow, duck fat, etc.)”.

    • Gerri says

      I always wondered why some people say to use olive oil for cooking too….thought maybe they don’t know but you see it so often

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