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Bola-Bola Guisado – Chicken and Pork Meatballs Sauteed in Tomato Sauce

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It’s been an extraordinarily-wonderful month, I reminded myself as I rushed home to make dinner. When I opened the refrigerator, I saw the basic ingredients to make these Bola-Bola Guisado-Chicken and Pork Meatballs Sautéed in Tomato Sauce. Bola-Bola to Filipinos means meatballs.

As I mixed the meatball mixture into the large bowl, I counted the many blessings I was grateful for this October. First, it was my late mom’s birthday month. Every dish I cook each time reminds me of how I miss her. Therefore, I dedicated my third cookbook Instant Filipino Recipes which launched this month to mom, as a follow up to my second and first ones. There were many things in the last few weeks that reminded me of mom even more than the usual. My husband and I were invited as guest panelists to speak at the Bataan Legacy Historical Society conference held at the University of San Francisco last month. Our academic presentations were about our family’s role in history during World War II in the Philippines. I spoke about my late mother Lourdes Reyes Besa, her heroic efforts to save American and Filipino POWs in prison camps – bravery that earned mom the U.S. Medal of Freedom, twice. My husband, Elpi spoke about his granduncle Philippine President Elpidio Quirino and the latter’s Executive Clemency to forgive war criminals. I wrote about the essence of our presentations in this essay “War and Forgiveness which published in Positively Filipino, the premiere online magazine based in San Francisco.

Right after that history conference, I got word that I was nominated and had won the Plaridel Writing Awards again this year. These are annual awards given out by the Philippine-American Press Club to recognize excellence in journalism. To my delight my two feature articles won: “Tupig from Tarlac” for Best Food Story, Merit Award and “Savoring Hidden Flavors of the Philippine Kitchen for Best Tourism Feature. I cherish these awards for writing and am very grateful to the PAPC. I take my work very seriously. I prepare extensively for every article and story I write by research, inquiries, reading and finally writing several drafts till I know it reads right. Every word I write comes from my heart and I hope touches lives.

But back to these meatballs in my kitchen, which by now I had shaped into perfectly round one-inch spheres. Since we were children, every time my mom announced dinner was going to be “bola-bola” my sister and I clapped our hands in glee. There is something about meatballs that is so appealing to most everyone in any age group.

While the meatballs, onions and garlic were sizzling in the skillet, I poured in the combined mixture of tomato paste and broth and incorporated everything. The steam from the skillet had a luscious, sweet aroma of the tomato sauce. Soon I noticed the sauce thickened as I spooned the liquid over the meatballs bobbing in the broth. And because I often like to combine vegetables with the meat ingredients to save time, I watched the leafy spinach soften in the bubbly tomato sauce. It had been quite a week and month. I wanted to feel comfy and at home as soon as I arrived. This easy Bola-Bola Guisado, as always, inspired by my  mom, made it all possible.

Bola-Bola Guisado - Chicken and Pork Meatballs Sauteed in Tomato Sauce

Bola-Bola Guisado- Chicken and Pork Meatballs Sauteed in Tomato Sauce are a delightful blend of ground chicken and pork. The meatballs are pan fried then simmered in a sauce of tomato paste and broth till it is reduced to a thick gravy. This is the kind of comfort meal that soothes and fills us up at the end of a busy day or week. Serve with boiled rice and enjoy. This is an Asian in America recipe. Serves 4.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time29 minutes
Total Time59 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Asian, Filipino
Keyword: Bola Bola Filipino Chicken Pork Meatballs
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 418kcal
Author: Elizabeth Ann Quirino


  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 whole onion divided, use 1/2, chopped for meatballs, rest for saute
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs plain, unflavored
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt divided, 1 teaspoon for meatballs, rest for sauce saute
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper divided, 1 teaspoon for meatballs, rest for sauce saute ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled, minced garlic
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups organic chicken broth
  • 1 medium-sized red or green bell pepper seeded, sliced in thin strips
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 stalk scallions or green onions chopped, for garnish
  • boiled rice for serving


  • In a large mixing  bowl combine the ingredients for the meatballs: ground chicken and pork, egg, apple sauce, half of the onion, bread crumbs, soy sauce, a teaspoon each of the salt and ground black pepper. Blend well. Shape the meat into one inch-sized meatballs. Lay on a large platter or tray. Refrigerate for 30 minutes for the meatballs to firm up.
  • Using a large skillet, over medium-high heat, add the vegetable oil. When oil is hot enough in 1 to 2 minutes, saute the garlic and onions.
  • When onions are translucent after about 2 minutes, add the meatballs to the skillet. Cover and cook the meatballs for about 10 minutes till slightly brown.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the tomato paste and broth till blended. Pour this liquid mixture into the skillet with the meatballs. Season with remaining salt and ground black pepper. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and continue cooking for 8 to 10 minutes more till meatballs are completely cooked and the liquid is reduced to a thick gravy.
  • Add the bell pepper strips and the fresh spinach. Incorporate gently into the mixture. Cover and cook 5 minutes more.
  • Garnish with chopped scallions and serve warm with boiled rice.
  • Hello, Friends! All the images and content on this blog are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED and owned by my media company Besa-Quirino LLC. This means BY LAW you are NOT allowed to copy, scrape, lift, frame, plagiarize or use my photos and  recipe content I wrote, on your website,books, films, television shows or videos  without my permission. If you want to republish this recipe or content on another website, video, news article,or media outlets mentioned above please ASK my permission, re-write it in your own words and simply link back to this blog to give proper attribution. It’s the legal thing to do. Thank you. Email me at [email protected]


Serving: 1g | Calories: 418kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 1833mg | Potassium: 529mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin C: 0.8mg | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 1.9mg

Notes on Nutrition: The nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.

Did you like this recipe? I have more classic recipes inspired by my late mother’s cooking in my popular cookbook: My Mother’s Philippine Recipes. If you’re learning how to cook Filipino food or a fan of Philippine cuisine, buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.

Hello, Friends! Please DO NOT LIFT OR PLAGIARIZE my original recipe, stories, photos or videos. All the images and content on this blog are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED and owned by my media company Besa-Quirino LLC. This means BY LAW you are NOT allowed to copy, scrape, lift, frame, plagiarize or use my photos, essays, stories and recipe content on your websites, books, films, television shows, videos, without my permission. If you wish to republish this recipe or content on media outlets mentioned above, please ASK MY PERMISSION, or re-write it in your own words and link back to my blog AsianInAmericaMag.com to give proper attribution. It is the legal thing to do. Thank you. Email me at [email protected]


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