5.5.17 Lamb Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce
Here’s the thing about meatballs. Every time I make them, I’m always glad I did. They’re not the most glamorous of meals, but there’s something homey and comforting about them. More and more, I’m realizing that when it comes to a good meatball, it’s hard to go wrong.
Especially in this slightly chilly, sometimes rainy, wholly unpredictable Wisconsin spring weather. The days may be getting warmer, we may be once again finding ourselves spending comfortable afternoons basking in the sun on porch (or playing in the sandbox, depending on which member of our family you ask), but come evening, there’s still a bit of a frosty chill in the air. Not ideal for sitting outdoors, but perfect, in my opinion, for a warm, saucy bowl of meatballs.
I’ve made many different kinds of meatballs before, but my favorite iteration these days has to be this spicy lamb variety. These meatballs are tender, flavorful, and swimming in a spicy harissa spiked tomato sauce. And of course, plenty of sharp, salty feta on top, because everything is better topped with cheese. While the traditional route always seems to involve serving meatballs atop spaghetti, with these you’ll always find me eating them just as they are - meatballs, sauce, and plenty of warm, crusty bread to mop it all up.
Lamb Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce
- 1 lb ground lamb
- ⅔ cup panko
- 1 egg
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1-2 Tbsp harissa paste (depending on desired spice level)
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
- 1 14.5 oz can diced, fire roasted tomatoes
- Salt to taste
- 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
- 2 Tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
1. Make the meatballs: Combine all meatball ingredients except olive oil in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Form mixture into approximately 1” balls, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (you should end up with about 15-16 meatballs).
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot, then add the meatballs to the hot pan. Cook 2-3 minutes a side, or until surface begins to brown, until meatballs are browned on all sides. Transfer meatballs to a plate and set aside while you start the sauce.
3. Drain out all but 1 Tbsp oil from the skillet. Return to medium heat, then add the onion and garlic, cooking until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the harissa paste and cook 1 minute more. Add the lemon juice and tomatoes, and cook, stirring frequently, for another 3-4 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt. (note: when I used unsalted tomatoes and a harissa paste that wasn’t too terribly salty, ½ tsp salt was the perfect amount to season the sauce, but this may vary depending on what you use.)
5. Stir the meatballs back into the sauce, cover skillet, and let cook over medium heat until meatballs are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
6. Remove cover from skillet, and give everything a good stir. If the sauce seems too watery, give it another minute or two to cook without the lid and it should thicken up a bit. Remove pan from heat, sprinkle feta and mint evenly over top, and serve.