Mexican Meatballs and Rice with Nacho Cheese Sauce

I'm always looking to shake up the Mexican rotation. Mexican food is very expensive here, not only in restaurants, but to prepare at home. Ground beef is about $9.50 per pound. My gang are big eaters when it comes to Mexican food. I have to get two packs of soft tortillas and a box of crunchy shells (for me) for a total of $15. Right there is $25. Throw in the additions of a seasoning packet ($1.50), cheddar cheese ($4.50), lettuce ($1.50), onions ($2.00), sour cream ($1.50), and taco sauce ($4.00) and it really adds up. Things like jalapenos and guacamole are, sadly, splurges.

This recipe is much more wallet friendly and satisfies the need for Mexican flavors. I buy only a pound of ground beef and the cheddar cheese needed to make the meatballs and cheese sauce. Everything else I have on hand already. For the rice, I generally only have to buy tomato sauce and fresh cilantro. This recipe makes plenty of food to satisfy my crew, even with only one pound of ground beef. The original recipe says 1.5 lbs of ground beef yields 15, one inch meatballs. I used one pound and made at least 20. Maybe the metric system has made me bad at estimating one inch...Who knows.

The rice in this dish is really, really good and not dry. I hate dry rice. And, it pairs so well with the smoky meatballs and cheese sauce. I substituted several dashes of Tabasco instead of dicing jalapenos for two reasons...1. They can't be found in my local stores right now. Switzerland is very seasonal when it comes to produce. And, secondly, I have a three year old; the Tabasco was easier to control the heat.

I love tacos. They are by far my favorite food and I would have no qualms about eating them everyday. But, unfortunately, living here they are not budget friendly. We have gone from once a week to probably once a month. It makes me sad. But, these meatballs and rice are a nice alternative!

Mexican Meatballs and Rice with Nacho Cheese Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 1.5 pounds (680 g) ground beef
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) milk
  • 1 cup (90 g) bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 yellow onion, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 mL) chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the nacho cheese sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter
  • 3 Tablespoons (23 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (240 mL) milk
  • 1 cup (115 g) sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (or substitute Tabasco or cayenne pepper)
  • salt and pepper

For the Mexican rice:

  • 3 Tablespoons (45 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (185 g) long grain rice, uncooked
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) tomato sauce
  • 1-14 ounce (414 mL) can of chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 mL) finely chopped cilantro + more for garnishing

Directions

For the meatballs: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with baking spray. In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients well. Form into one inch sized balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven (drain them on paper towels if desired) and place on a bed of prepared rice. Drizzle with the cheese sauce and additional cilantro; serve immediately!

For the nacho cheese sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk for a minute or two. Slowly add the milk, keep whisking to avoid lumps. Keep whisking as the sauce thickens over a couple of minutes. Add the cheese, jalapeno, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until cheese is melted and it's all combined. Remove from heat. If the sauce gets too thick, thin it with some milk. Serve with meatballs.

For the rice: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice and gently stir until rice begins to lightly brown. Add the garlic, salt, and cumin and stir until the rice looks golden. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, and cilantro. Turn the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.

Meatballs and nacho cheese sauce slightly adapted from climbinggriermountain.com
Mexican rice is from favfamilyrecipes.com

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