One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce

These One-Pan Bison Meatballs come together in just under an hour, with only 15 minutes of hands-on time. They’re tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by charred broccolini, an herby tomato sauce and melted Fontina cheese.

An overhead shot of a pan of bison meatballs with broccolini and tomato sauce. The pan is tied off with a hand towel and there are tomatoes and bread on either side.

If you’ve never treated yourself to bison before, you’re in for a huge treat with these One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce! They’re tender and juicy and full of flavor. In fact, you may never want to go back to regular old ground beef again.


You can think of bison as beef’s fancier and more flavorful cousin, although, bison is actually lower in calories and higher in protein than both ground beef and turkey. It does tend to be more expensive, so I say save the bison for a once-in-a-while treat as opposed to an everyday thing.

You can usually find ground bison wherever ground beef is sold. In fact, I found a high-quality double-pack of ground bison at Costco. I popped one of the packages in the freezer (because we all know how helpful it is to have freezer options on hand!) and used the other one to make these delicious One-Pan Bison Meatballs.


When it comes to cooking, ground bison can be prepared in the exact same way ground beef is prepared. Aside from meatballs, you could also use ground bison to make burgers (bison burgers are a favorite of mine), taco meat or even a meat sauce for over pasta.

A close-up view of One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce with some crusty bread in the background.

But today we’re here to talk about meatballs, so let’s get to it!


Making the meatball mixture itself is the longest hands-on part of the process, and you’re going to have to get a little bit dirty. After all, I find the best way to mix up some meatballs is to get your hands in the mixing bowl to blend it all together.

You’re going to throw all of the typical meatball ingredients into the mix – egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, shallots, oregano – you don’t need anything special because, when it comes to bison, it already has so much flavor.

I guess this recipe is technically a two-dish one (if you count the mixing bowl), but once it comes to cooking, you’ll only need a large cast iron skillet [*affiliate link] to make these meatballs come to life.

You’re going to place your meatballs in a piping hot cast iron skillet on the stove first – you want to give them a good sear so they have that nice crispy outside before baking – then pour all of the tomato sauce ingredients over top (with the exception of the pancetta, which goes in first so you can use some of the oil for cooking the meatballs). Top all this with broccolini and delicious grated Fontina, throw it in the oven for just under 30 minutes (boil up some pasta or quinoa while you’re waiting) and – voila! – your One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce are ready to be devoured by the fam.

A plate of pasta topped with bison meatballs, broccolini and tomato sauce.

Have you ever tried cooking with ground bison before? Let me know in the comments below!

One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
50 mins

These One-Pan Bison Meatballs come together in just under an hour, with only 15 minutes of hands-on
time. They’re tender and juicy, and perfectly complimented by charred broccolini, an herby tomato sauce and melted Fontina cheese.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: bison, dinner, family-friendly, Italian, kid-friendly, meatballs, one-pan
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 674 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs or panko
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Other ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 8 ounces broccolini
  • 3 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Place all meatball ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using hands, blend together until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

  3. Begin heating 2 tablespoons olive oil in cast iron skillet on stove over medium heat. Add pancetta and begin cooking, stirring occasionally while you form your meatballs. Also add the garlic at this time.

  4. Form meatballs into 2- to 3-inch rounds and place in cast iron skillet along with pancetta (which should be mostly cooked by now.) Allow meatballs to sear (about 2 minutes) and then flip them over to get the other side browned as well.

  5. Turn heat down and add entire can of tomatoes (including juice.) Sprinkle basil over top and tuck broccolini in amongst everything.

  6. Finally, sprinkle the entire mixture with Fontina cheese and place in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until meatballs are cooked through.

  7. Serve over cooked quinoa or pasta and enjoy!

Recipe Notes
  1. DISH DENSITY: Medium
  2. While ground bison tends to have a few more nutritional benefits, you can also substitute ground beef for the ground bison. You can find ground bison at most grocery stores (and even Costco).
  3. The meatballs are best cooked in a cast iron skillet to ensure they are nice and golden on the outside and not mushy.
  4. This recipe is baby-led weaning friendly, just be prepared for a bit of a mess!
  5. This meal is incredibly freezer-friendly. Store cooled meatballs in a glass container and be sure to label it with name and date so you know what it is and when you should enjoy it by!
Nutrition Facts
One-Pan Bison Meatballs with Broccolini and Tomato Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 674 Calories from Fat 405
% Daily Value*
Fat 45g69%
Saturated Fat 17g106%
Cholesterol 164mg55%
Sodium 955mg42%
Potassium 516mg15%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 1360IU27%
Vitamin C 54mg65%
Calcium 243mg24%
Iron 5mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce

These Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers feature a tasty combo of tomatoes, quinoa and ground bison, plus a silky cashew cream sauce.Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

We’re starting to get real creative with the healthy stuff over here. Like, I can’t believe I would ever create this Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Pepper recipe without even thinking about needing to add any cheese. Who am I?

I’m a gal that’s open to trying new things and willing to give anything a shot as long as I don’t have to cut anything else out of my diet completely, that’s who I am!

No, I’m not a vegetarian and no, I’m not gluten or dairy-free, but I’m up for trying anything as long as it’s made from whole, minimally processed foods. This is truly one of the things I love most about the healthy diet and lifestyle I’ve created for myself. Try everything, restrict nothing. I find that this relaxed view of whatever food I consume has been the savior in the long road to “eating recovery” I’ve taken since my college years. It hurts me to watch people struggle with binge-eating or not being able to control themselves in the presence of unhealthy food , simply because they tell themselves they absolutely CANNOT have something.

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

By allowing myself to eat anything I want, but being in tune with how hungry I am and how my body feels after I eat certain things, I can truly say I’ve become an “intuitive eater.” I eat something if it sounds good, but knowing that I can always have more later keeps me from going off the deep end and eating too much and feeling weighed down and uncomfortable.

That being said, I find cooking things outside of my norm a great challenge, and I find that when I do so, I often discover new recipes and flavors that I never would have thought of before. Which brings me back to these delightful Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce. Yes, cashew cream sauce! You guys, this may be one of my new favorite secret weapons. I know, I know, it’s nothing new (folks have been talking about it for ages) but what I’m saying is, this is the first time I took a step out of my comfort zone and gave it a shot and, boy, am I glad that I did!

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

During the summer, I try my hardest to use as much of the abundant fresh produce available as possible in my cooking. There’s just nothing like preparing a healthy, satisfying dish with ingredients just recently pulled from the ground or picked from a tree.

One of my favorite vegetables to cook with during the summer is fresh pasilla peppers. They have just the right amount of spice and roast (or grill) up beautifully. They’re also the perfect size to stuff with all kinds of delicious, healthy fillings. Enter this delicious recipe I’ve created for Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce.

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

One of my favorite ways to stuff pasilla peppers is with a ground meat and tomato sauce combination. Tomatoes are a natural complimentary flavor to peppers, and the ground meat adds some substance.  Although you could use any type of ground meat here, I opted for ground bison as it is a bit leaner than beef and usually more humanely farmed. I also added quinoa to thicken up the filling a bit and include even more protein to keep us full and satisfied.

We all know that Chris and I have been really focusing on filling our bodies with whole, nourishing foods in these last couple of weeks leading up to the wedding, and this whole Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce idea was borne from that mission. I don’t know about you, but I always LOVE adding cheese to any recipe that contains peppers and tomatoes. In an effort to cut down our cheese intake but still have some sort of creamy factor to the peppers, I decided to try my hand at the above-mentioned cashew cream sauce. Score!

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

Not only are these Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers incredibly tasty, they are also very easy to make. Since we don’t need to worry about melting cheese over top of the peppers, we actually roast the hollowed out peppers on their own and cook the filling on the stove.

The cashew cream doesn’t require any cooking and can be made up to three days in advance. I’ve recently started making this vegan condiment and find it’s the perfect healthy addition to many recipes, so you’ll want to keep a good stockpile in your refrigerator for use at any moment’s notice. Just be sure to heat up the amount you’ll be using on your peppers a bit before using to bring it up to the same temperature as the rest of the dish.

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

In a nutshell the prep goes something like this:

Roast up some big, juicy pasilla peppers…

Cook up a delicious tomato-ground bison-quinoa filling…

Whip up a batch of homemade cashew cream sauce (do it!)…

Stuff peppers with filling…

Drizzle said stuffed peppers with cashew cream sauce…

Eat like nobody’s watching.

You’re welcome.

When served with a mixed green salad, these Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce are the perfect weeknight meal. They come together quickly and won’t leave you feeling heavy or weighed down. They’re the perfect addition to your weekly menu rotation. So now my only question is, what are you waiting for??

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce | CaliGirl Cooking

Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Soaking Time
4 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 55 mins
A healthy dinner recipe featuring roasted pasilla peppers stuffed with a delicious combination of tomatoes, quinoa and ground bison, all topped with a luscious cashew cream sauce.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: dinner, main dish, Mexican, pasillas, peppers
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 579 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
For the peppers:
  • 6 pasilla peppers tops cut off and seeds/membranes removed from middle
  • 1 teaspoon melted coconut oil or coconut oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ of a yellow onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 pound ground bison or your choice of ground meat/protein
  • 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
For the cashew cream sauce:
  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups filtered water
To make the peppers:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place peppers on a jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil and brush with coconut oil (or spray with coconut oil cooking spray.) Once oven is preheated, place peppers in to roast for 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through the cooking time. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once pan is warm, add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add ground bison and continue cooking until meat is lightly browned.
  3. Once meat is lightly browned, add crushed tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, cayenne and brown sugar. Stir to combine. Turn up heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Add cooked quinoa and season with salt and pepper as needed. Continue to simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
  4. Once filling is done cooking, scoop about 1 ½ cups into each pepper, or enough to fill the pepper right to the top. Set onto a plate to serve and drizzle with cashew cream (see recipe below.)
To make the cashew cream:
  1. Place cashews in a small mixing bowl. Fill bowl with water, enough to just cover the tops of the nuts. Let soak at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. When cashews are done soaking, strain out water and rinse. Place cashews in a high-powered blender with nutritional yeast and salt. Turn blender power on low and slowly increase, streaming in filtered water consistently to get the right consistency. If needed, stop the blender and scrape down the sides every once in a while. You will want to continue running the blender until the cream is smooth and has very little (if any) chunks.
  3. Remove cream from blender and place in an airtight container (if making ahead) or drizzle directly over stuffed peppers.
Recipe Notes
  1. The cashew cream can be made up to a few days in advance. Just store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  2. Ground bison is full of nutrients and you can find it at most grocery stores (even Costco!) That being said, you're welcome to sub in any sort of ground meat you prefer in this recipe.
  3. You will most likely have both leftover filling and cashew cream. The good news is, both of these keep and reheat well. Place in airtight containers and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  4. This recipe is also freezer-friendly and can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Nutrition Facts
Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 579 Calories from Fat 315
% Daily Value*
Fat 35g54%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Cholesterol 53mg18%
Sodium 636mg28%
Potassium 1232mg35%
Carbohydrates 44g15%
Fiber 8g33%
Sugar 16g18%
Protein 28g56%
Vitamin A 860IU17%
Vitamin C 110mg133%
Calcium 100mg10%
Iron 8mg44%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Spicy Stuffed Pasilla Peppers with Cashew Cream Sauce |

Dinner is served.

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