• Yield: Makes about 30 meatballs; serves 8 to 10

In hindsight, stuffing a meatball with a tot seems like an obvious idea, but I couldn’t find any evidence of it being done before! After testing the merits of precooking the tots to add an extra dimension of brown flavor and crispness, my tasters unanimously agreed that the uncooked tots worked better. This is because browning the tots essentially seals them inside a crust, keeping them separate from the meat surrounding them. But when you wrap the thawed tots in meat, they really become one with the meatballs and the delicious pork flavor permeates the tots.


For the romesco sauce

  • 1 large red bell pepper

  • 1 habañero pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

  • 25 roasted almonds

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

 For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

  • 2 tablespoons milk

  • 1 garlic clove, grated

  • 1 cup freshly grated manchego cheese

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

  • 1 large egg

  • About 30 frozen tots, defrosted (see note below)

Tots! by Dan Whalen


1. Preheat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. Make the romesco sauce: Put the bell pepper on the prepared baking sheet and broil, frequently rotating the pepper with tongs to blacken the skin evenly on all sides, about 5 minutes. Turn off the oven. 

3. Transfer the charred pepper to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

4. Remove the charred pepper from the bowl and use your fingers to peel and discard its skin. Stem and seed the pepper and place the flesh in the bowl of a food processor. Add the habañero, almonds, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil. Add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes as desired, and process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. 

5. Make the meatballs: Put the ground pork in a bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs, milk, garlic, cheese, parsley, and egg and mix well to combine.

6. Preheat the broiler to high. 

7. Meanwhile, form the meatballs one by one: Scoop 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pork mixture into your hand, place a tot in the center, and wrap the meat around the tot. The meatball shouldn’t be huge—about golf ball size (you’ll want a fairly thin layer of meat around the tot). Roll the meatball around between your palms to help round it and to seal the meat around the tot. Place the finished meatballs on a rimmed baking sheet, making sure they don’t touch.

8. Broil the meatballs, a few inches from the heat, until browned on top, 7 to 10 minutes, then flip them with a spatula and brown on the other side, about 7 minutes more. (Keep your eyes on them while they cook to make sure they don’t burn.)

9. To serve, pile up the meatballs on a platter, place the romesco in a bowl, and pass toothpicks for dipping the meatballs into the sauce.

Defrosting Frozen Tots

Defrosting frozen tater tots is simple. If you want the tots intact, place them on a tray and let them sit out at room temperature until they've thawed, about 1 to 2 hours. If the desired result is mashed up tots, place them on a microwave-safe plate (working in batches if necessary), and microwave them in 1-minute increments, stirring between each round, until they're defrosted. Either way, handle the thawed tots with care because they're fragile and fall apart easily.

Excerpted from Tots! 50 Tot-ally Awesome Recipes from Totchos to Sweet Po-tot-o Pie by Dan Whalen (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2018. Photographs by Matthew Benson.