Recipe: Meatballs meet nachos – Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Nachos can be multilayered with queso, smashed black beans, jalapenos, pulled pork or chicken, fresh pico de gallo and a squiggle of sour cream.

Or keep them simple, just one layer. That’s how nachos were first made in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras in the early 1940s. The story goes that four American tourists stopped by Moderno Restaurant and wanted fried tortillas. But nobody was in the kitchen.

So a waiter named Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya “sliced a tortilla in four pieces, put some cheese and slices of jalapeno on top and stuck it in the oven for a few minutes,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. He called it “Nacho’s Especial.” The name was eventually shortened to nachos and it became the most popular appetizer at the restaurant. (The waiter’s nickname, by the way, was a common nickname for anyone named Ignacio in Mexico.)

When the word spread about the cheesy and spicy appetizer, variations started popping up. While tortilla chips and gooey cheese are mainstays, vegan versions can be made with jackfruit or tofu; keto versions can be built on pork rinds or cheese crisps.

These meatball nachos fall between the complex and the simple. Rather than layers of ingredients, most of the elements go into the hearty meatballs, which are topped with a chunky salsa.


  • >> Salsa:
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2-1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • >> Meatballs:
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 pounds ground pork (substitute ground turkey or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • >> Nachos:
  • 1 (13-ounce) bag round white tortilla chips, divided
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
  • 1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, minced, divided
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cotija or Parmesan cheese, shredded

>> To make salsa: In a bowl, stir together onion, bell pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper and crushed tomato sauce. Season with salt. Add cilantro and tomatoes; combine well. Cover and set aside.

>> To make meatballs: In a bowl, combine garlic, egg, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and salt. Add pork, breadcrumbs and cilantro. Mix gently. Form 32 balls.

In a heavy pot, heat oil over medium. Add meatballs in batches and cook until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Keep warm.

Assemble nachos: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place half the tortilla chips on a baking tray and sprinkle with half the cheddar and half the pickled jalapenos. Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Transfer chips to a wide serving bowl or platter. Repeat process with remaining chips, cheese and jalapenos. Arrange these chips on top of the first, to create a second layer.

Pour salsa over meatballs and gently stir. Spoon meatballs and salsa over the cheesy chips. Top with a sprinkle of cilantro and cotija or Parmesan cheese. Serves 6 to 8.

Nutritional information unavailable.


No matter what kind of nachos you like, there are some commonsense tips for doing the job right:

>> Bring refrigerated toppings to room temperature before piling them onto warm chips.

>> To keep chips from getting soggy, sprinkle with cheese and bake a few minutes. The melted cheese will act as a buffer between the chips and toppings.

>> Chips should to be heated evenly until cheese is well melted. Don’t brown or char them, so use the oven and not the broiler to do the job.

>> While nachos are a free-form snack, don’t go nutty. Banana is forbidden.