Meatballs with Tomato Sauce


When I have leftover cooked meat from a roast or a stew, or even leftover steak, I often chop it and use it to make stuffing, chili or meatballs like these boulettes ("small balls")—a staple in every French housewife's cooking repertoire. You can serve the boulettes on their own with a salad, or brush them with barbecue sauce and serve with mashed potatoes. Here, they're topped with a quick-cooking tomato sauce dotted with tangy green olives. More Jacques Pépin Recipes

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce
Photo: © James Baigrie
Total Time:
50 mins



  • 12 ounces leftover roast beef, veal or pork (coarsely chopped)

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup minced onion

  • ¼ cup minced celery

  • 1 garlic clove (minced)

  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 large eggs (beaten)

  • Vegetable oil (for frying)


  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)

  • ½ cup minced onion

  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme

  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano

  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with their liquid

  • cup pitted green olives (coarsely chopped)

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Put the meat in a food processor and process until finely chopped. In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt. Add the chopped meat, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, pepper and eggs and mix with your hands until thoroughly blended. Form the mixture into 16 meatballs and flatten slightly.

  2. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs and cook over high heat until browned on the bottom. Turn the meatballs, reduce the heat to moderate and cook until browned on the second side, about 3 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a large plate.

  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil. Add the garlic, onion, thyme and oregano and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, cover and cook over moderate heat for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce until slightly chunky; alternatively, puree the sauce in a food processor and return the sauce to the saucepan.

  4. In a small saucepan, cover the olives with water and bring to a boil over high heat; drain well. Add the olives to the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs, simmer until heated through and serve.

Make Ahead

The meatballs can be refrigerated overnight in the sauce.

Serve With

Gnocchi Parisienne or plain pasta.

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