Hunker Down with Meatball Stew

Meatball Stew

Now that we’ve cleared the holiday hurdle it’s time to start thinking about surviving the winter. I live in So Cal where our winters are typically mild. Often wet, but always mild. Still, I look for the joy in the season wherever I can find it and cool-weather pleasures don’t get simpler than a steaming pot of Meatball Stew: cheap, easy and deeply warming, it’s the edible equivalent of mittens and a scarf. 

There’s a lot of ways to go when it comes to meatballs. I don’t really have one way I always make them. In fact, this is the first time I’ve made meatballs in a stew. I chose to go simple in my meatball preparation, no mixed meat, no herbs – just salt and pepper. But you certainly could make this meatball stew or one similar using your preferred meatball method. I was tempted to try braising my meatballs for this stew, without browning them first, but I got into auto-pilot and pan-fried them before they hit the stew pot. Either way would work.

Of all the cooking I do in winter, a deep pot of stew is what I find myself drawn to most often – sometimes it is merely the sum of what I have in the fridge and pantry, other times more layered and considered. Whichever way, it’s time to hunker down with Meatball Stew. GREG

Meatball Stew

Butternut Squash and Meatball Stew with Chunky Tomatoes and Cauliflower 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Cooking LightPublished
Butternut Squash and Meatball Stew with Chunky Tomatoes


  • 1 slice sandwich bread (crusts and all cut into tiny dice)
  • ⅓ cup whole milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • salt and black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounce pancetta (cut into tiny dice)
  • ½ teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 2 cup 3/4‑inch diced butternut squash
  • ½ onion (½‑inch diced)
  • 3–4 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 (14½ oz) can beef broth
  • 3 Roma tomatos (cut into 1 ½‑inch chunks)
  • 1 cup smooth tomato sauce
  • 2 cup raw cauliflower florets (bite-sized)
  • grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)


Place diced bread in a bowl; pour milk over bread. Set aside for a couple of minutes.

In a medium bowl gently combine soaked bread with beef until well-distributed but not overworked, season generously with salt and pepper. Gently shape into 12 (1 ½‑inch) meatballs.

Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stew pot that has a lid over medium-high. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add meatballs in a single layer; cook, turning to brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Add diced pancetta, anise seeds, and crushed red pepper flakes to the hot pan and cook until the fat has rendered. Add squash, onion, and garlic to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add stock, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Season to taste with salt and pepper; cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in cauliflower; cover and cook 3 minutes. Return meatballs to pan; cover and cook just until meatballs are cooked through 6 to 8 minutes. 

Serve warm with Parmesan cheese.