Judge me however you want, but I love dollar stores. Most of their canned food is absolute garbage, I know this, but for a buck I’ll gladly skimp a bit (especially on non-paycheck weeks). This entire meal was basically $3 plus some pantry items, and fed about 4 large servings.


Mackerel meatballs! Not the most appetizing-sounding dish, but it tastes a lot more elegant than it sounds.


Slightly brown one large onion on medium heat. Once the corners start to deepen, add the garlic, mix, and then dump the $1 can of tomato sauce. If you can find a 28oz one, that’s perfect; if not, splurge the $2 for two 15oz. Let it simmer on low heat while making the meatballs.


Evidently, this recipe is quite old, considering how small my cat Queso is. Besides the fact that Queso looks adorable, I really have to admit I have no idea what “mackerel in brine” is, or how to use it.


After draining the unusually yellow brine, I placed each mackerel filet in a large bowl. The skin and bones, from my understanding, should be fully edible and able to be rolled into meatballs.


The ratio of ingredients for these mackerel balls were the same as what I’d do with ground beef meatballs. The feel of the mixture should be a slight wet sand texture, but definitely sticky enough to roll into a ball.


Roll each of the meatballs out to about 1.5 inch in diameter and throw in the simmering tomato sauce. Turn the heat up to medium, and close a lid on the pan to steam. Turn once every 5 minutes or so until fully cooked through. Once each meatball is done, remove to the side and throw the cooked pasta into the sauce and continue to mix. This is where to season with salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, garlic powder, and anything else you wish.


Serve the pasta first then place the meatballs on top. Garnish with parsley if you wish. The sauce itself could be considered slightly fishy (but in a good way), and the “meatballs” were tender and reminiscent of beef meatballs.

Definitely a dish I’d like to explore again, especially for a dinner during a week before payday.



  • 15 oz can of mackerel in brine
  • Either:
    2 cans of 15 oz tomato sauce
    1 can of 28 oz tomato sauce
    (whichever is cheaper)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Few cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2-1 cup breadcrumbs (depending on how much mackerel meat there is)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, parsley to taste
  • 1 lb pasta such as rigatoni or penne


  1. Heat a large pot of water to boil, preparing to cook a pound of pasta when needed.
  2. In a separate large pot, brown the chopped onion on medium-high heat with oil for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for an additional few minutes and pour in the tomato sauce. Either 2 cans of 15 oz tomato sauce, or 1 can of 28 oz tomato sauce will be fine – whatever is cheaper. Lower heat to low and simmer.
  3. In an empty bowl, put the drained mackerel fillets and mash them up a bit. Add 1 egg, some seasonings (salt, pepper, parsley, and basil), and enough bread crumbs to bind together. Start to roll them into 1.5 inch balls and set to the side.
  4. In the simmering sauce, drop the mackerel balls and turn the heat up. Close the lid slightly ajar so no sauce splatters all over the kitchen. Every 5 minutes turn the balls so they’re fully cooked. Should take less than 20 minutes total.
  5. Remove the balls, ideally to the Tupperware you’re going to use to store the meal later. Throw your now cooked pasta into the marinara sauce and coat.
  6. While serving, put the pasta down first and the meatballs on top. They’re very tender so be cautious when storing.
Posted by:Talei Rukstad

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