One pot ‘Tefteli’ – Russian porcupine meatballs in rich tomato sauce

These meatballs are juicy, delicious, full of lean protein and covered in a cracking thick tomato sauce. They’re also easy to make, all cooked up in a single pot.

The rice is the secret ingredient here, it absorbs the meat juices, spices and the rich tomato flavours and ensures that the meatballs stay soft and juicy despite their lean meat content.

The rice is also the reason for the ‘porcupine’ name – it juts out at angles from the meatballs like porcupine quills making for a visually interesting meal!

Recipe facts:

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Difficulty: not hard!

Makes 12 meatballs covered in sauce, serves 3-4 people

Calories per serving – 300-400


  • 250g lean turkey or pork mince (you can also use beef, or a mixture – beef has a little more fat in than these lean minces though)
  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 small onion finely chopped or grated
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
Ingredients assemble

To cook:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g (or one tin) of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup of veg or chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp sour cream to serve


If you haven’t got any cooked rice you’ll need to cook some first, half a cup of uncooked rice should make enough for 1 cup of cooked rice. Cool before use!

Simply prep all your meatballs ingredients and add to a bowl.

Mix well with a spoon.

Add oil to a medium sized frying pan which is at least a couple of inches deep.

Now to make the meatballs – use your hands to ensure the whole mix is thoroughly mixed.

Divide into 12 or so portions, and squeeze each one in your palms to form tightly packed meatballs. Placing them gently in your oiled pan as they’re made.

The meatballs, due to their rice content, can be a little fragile at this stage so be gentle with them. A good squeeze normally helps them stick together well – and a little flaking apart is fine as it just adds taste to the sauce!

Gently fry the meatballs for 3-5 minutes until browned, again, be gentle with them at this stage so they don’t break up too much.

Now mix your chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, paprika and stock before pouring over the meatballs. It should almost cover the meatballs.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, allowing the sauce to reduce down.

The rice in the meatballs is now absorbing all that delicious meat and tomato flavour, and when they’re finished cooking they go from slightly fragile meatballs to delicious and juice bundles of taste that now stick together well but are soft and flavour packed to the bite!

Add the sour cream to the pan and mix well, you can be more aggressive with your stirring now as the meatballs will be more sturdy.

Serve from the pan at the table with more rice or mashed potatoes, or add to a wrap or baguette for a sumptuous lunch!

Served with rice and Russian vinegret – a delicious beetroot salad!
Lovely rice ‘porcupine quills’

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