TasteFood

It's a Meatball Time of Year

When the weather is cold, wet and snowy, nothing is more comforting than a platter of meatballs, browned and braised in a fragrant tomato sauce. These meatballs take inspiration from a Moroccan lamb kefta and an Italian meatball and are rolled into a spicy and oh-so satisfying dish.

In this recipe, the ground lamb is seasoned with North African spices, and each ball is filled with a nugget of feta cheese nestling in the center. After a quick browning in a skillet, they are popped into the oven to braise and finish cooking in a blanket of roasted tomato-pepper sauce infused with spices and a kick of heat, reminiscent of harissa.

It may be chilly outside, but these meatballs will surely warm you up!

Braised Lamb Meatballs With Feta

Active time: 40 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus 1 hour chilling time

Yield: makes about 20 meatballs and 2 1/2 cups sauce; (4 to 6 servings)

Sauce:

1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes with juices

1 (12-ounce) jar roasted peppers, drained

2 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons ground chili paste, such as sambal oelek

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking the meatballs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Meatballs:

2 pounds ground lamb

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

2 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces feta, cut into 1/3-inch cubes, plus 1/4 cup, crumbled, for garnish

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves for garnish

Combine the sauce ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Set aside.

Combine all of the meatball ingredients, except the feta, in a bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Shape the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls. Make a small indentation in the center of each ball with your thumb and insert a feta cube, then close the meat around to seal it. Place the meatballs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Add the meatballs in batches, without overcrowding, and brown on all sides, turning as needed, about 5 minutes. (The meatballs will not be cooked through at this point. They will continue to cook in the sauce.) Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Add the sauce to the skillet and cook briefly over medium heat, scraping up any brown bits in the pan. Return the meatballs to the skillet and nestle them in the sauce, turning to coat. Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 30 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, sprinkle the crumbled feta over the lamb.

Serve with couscous or rice and garnish with chopped mint or cilantro.

CAPTIONS AND CREDITS

More like TasteFood