This is a recipe I’ve had for quite some time. However, I had to stop making it due to my late husband’s diabetes. Not sure if they are still making the sugar free version with aspartame or not now — which isn’t supposed to be exposed to heat nor cooked with — since it has been a very long time. If so, then I’m afraid I don’t have an alternative anymore today than I did back then.
This is not quite a BBQ sauce and not quite a pasta sauce but it works as both! I like it best on meatballs but I have used it also for shredded chicken, beef, and pork. It is also good by itself over pasta or rice!
I just had my son pick me up an individual can of the regular kind from the vending machine at his work place since we don’t really keep or drink sodas at home — except for the occasional use of ginger ale for adding to a party punch or on the rare occasion that I make a homemade batch of ginger ale.
However, I decided when I happened to see another similar recipe online to pull out my old recipe and use it. I actually needed to make enough for a crowd and didn’t want to spend a long time cooking up just a few at a time so I thought I’d use the electric pressure cooker/ instant pot (IP).
So after receiving a tip on where to go, I looked at many, many different recipes for various IP meatballs to get an idea about the time needed. All were for smaller amounts of meat — so I thought, okay, I’ll simply give it a bit more time just to be sure.
Then I started noticing that most used still frozen prepackaged meatballs and finally found a few that actually used fresh homemade meatballs. They were also browning them first. Well, if I was going to have to brown them all anyway then that sort of defeated the whole purpose of and reason I had for using the IP to start with.
I decided to try a little experiment. If it failed then I’d have myself a really tasty meat sauce instead so no great loss. I’d just boil up a bunch of pasta and serve that instead. Well, it worked beautifully and saved me tons of time and effort plus they all came out at the same time instead of just a little at time — and were already sauced in the process.
Normally, they are cooked first then simmered in the sauce. In this case, however, I simply dipped each raw homemade meatball to coat in the sauce to lessen the chance of them sticking together and then put them into a sauce filled IP without browning or pre-cooking. They stayed intact and held together quite nicely and it was actually a very nice tender texture both inside and out.
They were a huge hit! In fact, I now wish I had doubled the recipe or maybe even tripled it. Even making three separate pots (since the recipe was the maximum amount my particular size of IP would hold) would not have taken as much time as doing them on the stove top.
If ever in my childhood home of Waco, Texas (where Dr. Pepper was first invented), I highly recommend taking a tour of the Dr. Pepper Museum! See whether or not they still sell the glass bottles of the original formula made with cane sugar instead of corn syrup which was still being manufactured in a factory in Dublin, Texas in the late 1990s. And if not, simply enjoy an old style soda fountain jerk Dr. Pepper instead! Or any of the others they offer (including the no longer commercially available Triple XXX root beer which they have the formula for)!
That said, I will now present my old meatball recipe with both the old way and the new way of cooking them.
3 lbs. 97 percent or higher extra lean ground beef
1 lb. ground pork breakfast sausage
1/4 cup Lee & Perrins Worcestershire sauce (or substitute your own preferred sauce)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
Form into bite sized or two bites sized meatballs either by hand or using an appropriately sized meatballer* if you have one.
* A meatballer looks like two tiny ice cream scoops (like a snow baller but smaller) that come together to make the meatball — with a lever to push that will send a scraper around the inside to loosen it. The one I have is passed down, ancient, stainless steel, and I don’t know for certain if they even make them anymore, but I’m sure they must. I’ve just never had a reason to look.
1 can Dr Pepper
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (or you may use another can of sauce instead)
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt or a seasoning blend of choice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar, optional (adds tanginess)
1/2 to 1 tsp Tiger sauce, optional (adds heat)
Combine together well.
Mix sauce in Dutch oven pot and bring sauce to boil then reduce heat to low simmer. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet then brown and cook meatballs turning to brown on all sides for about ten minutes or until no longer pink and done in the center. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
Drain on paper towels.
When meatballs have all been cooked, stir the sauce, then place meatballs into the sauce, fold/stir gently to coat, and simmer covered on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes.
Lightly spray with canola. Mix sauce and add the precooked (actually simply pre-browning the outsides will suffice) meatballs. Cook on high for 1 to 2 hours or on low for 2 to 3 hours.
Electric Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot/IP:
Lightly spray pot with canola. After mixing sauce inside pot, add the raw meatballs a little a time being sure to coat well on all sides with sauce.
You can either use the meat preset button and hit the cancel button after 13 minutes have passed then manually vent, or .. you can manually set it for 13 minutes at that same pressure setting normally used for meats then manually vent when done.
These meatballs and the sauce are good eaten alone, as a topping for pasta or rice, or as a meatball sub sandwich.
For a party appetizer, insert a toothpick then allow excess sauce to drip off and arrange on serving tray or platter. You may place a bowl of the sauce in the center for the traditional communal dipping or (more sanitary) set up another tray or platter to provide guests with individual soufflé cups of sauce.