As a lifelong foodie, I love trying new food trends and techniques. Like some people love to be on the cutting edge of fashion trends, I’m the same way with food. I remember the fois gras craze (barf), the kale craze, the smoothie trend, the raw food trend, and the list goes on and on. And while it’s always fun to try new things, sometimes what you really need is some good old comfort food. Those tried and true recipes that remind you of childhood and of home will forever be my favorite trend. Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs are a first class ticket down memory lane for me.
My mom had a short list of specialties that I remember growing up with – beef stew, tacos, breakfast for dinner, Shake n’ Bake pork chops, tuna salad (I have no idea what she does with a can of tuna and some mayonnaise but even the kids agree that hers always tastes better) and sweet & sour meatballs. I’ll admit, my mom’s sweet & sour meatballs were probably my least favorite of all of her specialties. But recently I just had a hankering for them and I don’t know why. Maybe I was just missing her. So I took a crack at making her old school recipe, and the result was better than I ever expected. Although they’re definitely a departure from how my mom made them, I’m still calling them Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs cause she is still the inspo.
Lightening up old school meatballs
But yeah, there are a few notable differences in our recipes. First, my mom used beef for the meatballs and I use ground turkey. I haven’t eaten beef since I was 16, and I don’t think she will ever get over it. It still irks her when I substitute turkey or chicken for beef or pork. It especially irked her when I told her I was making her old school recipe with ground turkey. The point of my telling you this is, if you want to use beef, rock and roll! Use whatever you want. It’s the sauce that makes Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs unforgettable, so whatever meat you use is going to be just fine. I’m sure many would argue that using beef will make them all the better.
My mom used a concoction called Sauce Arturo that she bought in small cans at our local Shoprite in West Philly. There were things you could get at Shoprite that you couldn’t find anywhere else. I remember she’d buy these really yummy tea biscuits with raisins in them, and she and I were the only ones in the house who’d eat them. We’d slather them with jelly and have them with – naturally – a cup of tea. I always felt so grown up when I drank tea with my mom. But I digress!
A little sweet, a little sour
The sad fact is I can’t find Sauce Arturo anywhere anymore, so I had to figure out a way to make my own. And let me tell you, it’s the weirdest combination of ingredients you’ll ever see. There are tomatoes and mushrooms, and then there’s brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar. It’s almost like a funky barbecue sauce. Oh but then it gets even weirder, cause we’re adding cranberry sauce. You just have to trust me on this because I’m telling you, Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs have become one of our family’s favorite things to eat. It’s now one of my specialties that my own kids will remember (hopefully).
The sauce is thick, dark and rich. It’s a stick-to-your-bones kind of sauce. It’s just the right balance of salty, tangy and umami. And if it couldn’t get better, we’re then putting it over a bed of pillowy egg noodles. Cause is there anything more comforting than egg noodles? I think not. Guys, you’ve gotta make Mom’s Sweet & Sour Meatballs. Start them during the afternoon so they’ll be ready by dinner time. Best enjoyed on a chilly, rainy or snowy evening for maximum coziness. I know you’re going to love them!
- 3 lbs. ground turkey or beef
- 1 1/4 cups plain bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 cans whole cranberry sauce
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 4 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 cup cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 lb. egg noodles
In a large pot over medium heat, saute the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms become soft and start to release liquid, pour in the remaining ingredients. Stir well and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover.
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs except for the ground meat. Once all other ingredients are combined, stir the meat into the mixture. Coat your hands in a little bit of olive oil and form the meatballs.
Uncover the sauce, and carefully place the meatballs into the sauce one by one until all meatballs are in the pot. Cover the pot. Simmer on low heat for at least one hour and up to several hours, gently stirring occasionally so that the bottom of the pan does not burn.
Boil the egg noodles for 7 minutes and drain. Serve sauce and meatballs over the warm noodles.