Passion for Pork

Recipe: Pork Meatballs with Mandarin Orange and Fennel Sauce

Dan Clapson - Friday, December 21, 2012

I came up with this recipe last Christmas. 100% Santa approved meatballs for the holidays! Turkey doesn’t always have to be the star at a Christmas Dinner, and this meatball side dish almost steals that bird’s spotlight away!

I generally don’t use mandarin oranges for anything other than simply peeling and eating, but thought that adding them to a sweet and sour sauce for these meatballs would make things a bit more merry. Speaking of merry, Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you are able to enjoy a nice holiday break with family and friends!

What you’ll need…


1 yellow onion (finely chopped)

1 pound lean ground beef

1 pound ground pork

2 eggs

1/2 bulb roasted garlic (minced)

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup fresh parsley (finely chopped)

2 TBSP ketchup

1 TSP chili powder

salt and pepper

olive oil


1 yellow onion (finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1 bulb fennel (thinly sliced, approximately 1 cup)

2 mandarin oranges (zest and juice)

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1 cup water

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup orange juice

1 TBSP red wine vinegar

2 TBSP brown sugar

1/4 TSP ground cloves

2 TSP flour

salt and pepper

olive oil


Starting off with the meatballs…Place the onions in a medium-sized pan, drizzle with some olive oil and cook on medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and combine with a spoon or by hand (I say by hand! Come on, it’s comfort food!). Form into 20 2″ diameter balls and set aside for now. These can be made a day in advance, just leave covered in refrigerator.

Now, moving along to the sauce. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the onion and garlic in a medium-sized pot, drizzle with some olive oil and let cook until the onion begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Next, aside from the flour, add all remaining ingredients into the pot. Once mixture comes to a bubble, reduce to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce is simmering, you can brown the meatballs. Drizzle some olive oil in a large pan on medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the meatballs (in two separate batches) and brown on all sides, cooking them for about 6-8 minutes per batch. Remove and place into a prepared baking dish.

As a final step for the sauce, sprinkle in the flour to help it thicken a bit, then salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the meatball-filled baking dish and bake in the oven, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Serve on some white rice with some fresh bread or crostini to soak up the sauce! Happy holidays!

Serves 5-6

Total cook time…1 hour