Meatballs Bayonnaise with Spicy Tomato and Pepper Sauce

May 12th, 2012

The city of Bayonne is in the Southwestern region of France near the border with Spain.  The region is heavily influenced by the Basque language, architecture, and food.  It is known principally for its fine chocolates and Bayonne Ham, which is cured with the espellette peppers.  But these meatballs are also popular.

We will not be traveling to this region of France but this recipe sounded so good that I had to try it.  It was in the cookbook The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone.  I have found many good recipes in this book and this one did not disappoint.  There are lots of red bell peppers in the recipe and although the title suggests that it is spicy, I found it to be quite mellow.  The large meatballs were almost “fall-apart” tender and it was delicious served on a toasted sourdough baguette with a serving of kale on the side.

Although it was easy to do in the slow cooker, I see no reason why you couldn’t assemble it in a dutch oven and cook it in the oven at a low temperature.  It can also be served over rice or orzo.  I used orzo for our second meal (it makes a lot!) and it was a perfect combination; kind of like spaghetti and meatballs.


1 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup crumbled French bread
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 pounds ground beef chuck (I used lean ground beef)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
Freshly ground pepper

Stir together the tomato puree, peppers, onion, 1 teaspoon salt, crushed red pepper, and bay leaf.  Pour half of the sauce into a large slow cooker.

In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk for a few minutes.  Lightly squeeze the bread and discard the milk.  Spread the flour on a piece of wax paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the soaked bread, ground beef, parsley, garlic, egg, cumin marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste.  Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into 2-inch balls.  Lightly roll the meatballs in the flour.

Transfer the meatballs to the slow cooker and top with the remaining sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or until the meatballs are cooked through.  Discard the bay leaf and serve hot.

As a side note I found it interesting that mayonnaise was purported to have been first made in Bayonne.  Its name is a corruption of Bayonnaise.

Printable recipe

13 responses to “Meatballs Bayonnaise with Spicy Tomato and Pepper Sauce”

  1. Love, love, love your new look Penny and the large photos just jump (a good thing) off of the screen.

    We hope to go to this region of France on our next trip. Perhaps just for the Bayonne ham. Love your sandwich and left-overs are always welcome in my kitchen.

    Again, your new look is fabulous!

  2. Big Dude says:

    Looks delicious Penny – Your palette should be well ready for French food by the time you get there.

  3. That looks wonderful Penny. Did I tell you I bought that book and the Italian Slow Cooker too? I haven’t had a chance to use either yet.

  4. Gretchen says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe Penny. I’m going to make these this week and I’ll let you know how they turn out. Happy Mother’s Day!


  5. Pondside says:

    All the men that I know just love a good meatball sandwich, and this one looks delicious!

  6. Barbara says:

    I’m loving all your French recipes with their backgrounds, Penny. My sons would go crazy over these meatball sandwiches! I’d like to pick up that fork and lick it! 🙂

  7. DAYUM, GIRL! And that comment stems from my just looking at the pics. Now I have to go back and actually read that words that go with it… but DAYUM GIRL! I love the way y ou cook!

  8. bellini says:

    It does song extremely delicious and comforting.

  9. Hitchhiker42 says:

    That looks really good! We do something quite similar at our house; it is Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Kefta (Lovely Meatballs). We make it with lamb instead of beef. It’s on page 196 of the Jamie Does… cookbook. We put ours in pita bread and spice it up with a little harissa.

  10. Martha says:

    This looks delicious Penny! Thanks for stopping by my place. Hope you have a wonderful week 🙂

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yummy – I made the recipe today and it is delicious. Thanks for sharing. Some fresh parmesan tasted good on top too.

    Peggy Mossing
    Fort Wayne

  12. Rita says:

    This is a must try; love the idea of just adding the meatballs to the slow cooker. Anything with roasted red pepper has got to be good.

  13. These are some delicious things to try. It looks is very perfect…

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