Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

I had never made lamb meatballs before so wasn’t sure what to expect. But I’ve also never met a meatball I didn’t love and these did not disappoint!

The cinnamon and cumin provide wonderful warmth to both the meatballs and the tomato sauce. The red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper some heat. But the heat is balanced out by the tomatoes and the orange juice / peel and touch of sugar. Finishing the dish with some crumbled feta adds a night salty touch.

The meatballs themselves have a nice crispness to the outside from the broiling but are very moist inside.

I followed the recipe pretty closely. The only substitution I made was using a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes instead of passing a can of whole tomatoes through a food mill, which seemed like a worthy time / cleanup saver.

What surprised me most is how much my sometimes vegetarian daughter loved both the meatballs and the sauce. Shh….I didn’t tell her they were lamb meatballs.

Overall, just a really warm dish evocative of North African cuisine.


Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce
Suzanne Goin, Adapted by Sam Sifton, NYT Cooking

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  •  ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks, extra-large
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  Pinch red-pepper flakes
  •  Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  •  ¼ cup chopped parsley

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  •  Red-pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  •  ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  •  Pinch ground cinnamon
  •  Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  ½ teaspoon white sugar
  •  ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 3-inch strip of orange peel, pith removed
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves
  1. Preheat broiler. In a large bowl, mix together the onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cayenne. Put the lamb in the bowl, and season it aggressively with salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs and parsley, and combine the mixture well. Shape the meat into balls that are a little larger than golf balls.
  2. Grease a baking pan with olive oil, and put the meatballs onto it, spaced evenly. Place beneath the broiler, and cook, turning once or twice, until the meatballs are well browned, approximately 5 to 7 minutes, then set meatballs aside. Turn oven to 400.
  3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, or whizz them quickly in a food processor. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper and shake to combine. Cook for another minute, then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel, along with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Pour the tomato sauce into a large baking dish that you can put on the table. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce, putting them about ½ inch from each other. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.
  6. Top with crumbled feta and scattered mint.


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