These Mediterranean meatballs are a lamb meatball made with Tunisian spices. They are easy enough to make for a quick tasty weeknight meal! (Jump directly to the recipe.)
“What do you think about me making Mediterranean meatballs for dinner?” I asked my partner AJ. He looked at me as if I had just grown a second head and with wide eyes replied back “I’d think that would be awesome.” His expression clearly showing that I didn’t even need to ask that question. Meatballs are pretty much good anytime here in this household and AJ apparently was incredulous that I couldn’t remember that. I had discovered this lamb meatball recipe using Tunisian spices from the cookbook One Good Dish by David Tanis and it’s quickly become a staple in our household.
I’ve been cooking a lot more at home. Partly because I desperately needed a break from all the sugar, butter and flour that I’ve been going through developing recipes for my cookbook. Partly because I realize that my towering stack of cookbooks that are accumulating on top of my desk are just gathering dust (as well as dangerously teetering on collapse onto my computer). It was time for me to start actually using them and not just collect them. I’ve been a fan of David Tanis since picking up his book The Heart of an Artichoke a few years ago and his latest small unassuming book is a collection of one dish meals that are easy to make and packed full of flavor.
His Tunisian meatball recipe made with ground lamb is pretty straightforward, despite the dauntingly long ingredient list. Luckily most of the ingredients can be found in a well-stocked pantry (such as mine, where my obsession with cookbooks is only rivaled by my obsession with herbs and spices). The few spices you don’t have can be found fairly easily at most grocery stores. The result, a punchy Mediterranean meatball meal served over Israel cous cous with golden raisins is a meal that you can make in about an hour. No wonder AJ thought my questions as ridiculous. Of course he wanted them for dinner. Why wouldn’t he?
Mediterranean Meatballs, a lamb meatball recipe with Tunisian spices
By Irvin Lin
Don’t be scared off by the long ingredient list in this recipe. Most of the spices are fairly common and can be found in a well-stocked kitchen pantry. The few ingredients you might not have are pretty easy to get at a grocery store. Best of all, this recipe can be made in under an hour and still taste like you slaved for hours in the kitchen.
Adapted from David Tanis’ One Good Dish
2 cups fresh cubed crusty whole wheat bread (or whatever you have on hand)
1 cup milk (whole or whatever you have on hand)
1 lb ground lamb (or ground beef if you aren’t a fan of lamb)
1/2 lb ground beef
1 large egg
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley, divided
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, divided
4 tablespoons chopped scallions (green onions), divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
6 oz tomato paste
2 1-inch cinnamon sticks
pinch of saffron, crumbled in your fingers
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Israel couscous
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place the cubed bread onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the bread has dried out but not browned. While the bread is toasting make the sauce.
2. Place the oil in a large wide skillet or pot and heat until shimmering. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and cook until the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Once they start to soften, add the garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon sticks and saffron. Stir and cook for about a minute, then season generously with salt and pepper. Add the broth, stir to incorporate, cook on medium high heat until boiling. The sauce will look thin. Lower heat to a simmer and then cover while you make the meatballs, stirring occasionally.
3. Once the bread is toasted, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Move bread to a large bowl and drizzle milk over bread, tossing and mixing until the milk is absorbed. Add both meats, egg, garlic, salt and pepper and spices to bread. Add 3 tablespoons of the parsley, cilantro and scallions, reserving the 1 tablespoon each for garnish at tend. Using your hands mix and massage the mixture until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll the mixture into golf ball size meatballs then toss half the balls in the flour to coat. In a large pan, add the oil and heat until shimmering then pan fry half the meatballs, turning until they are brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. They don’t need to be completely cooked through, just brown. Move the browned meatballs to the simmering sauce, and repeat with the remaining meat, first forming the balls, then coating in flour and frying, then moving to the sauce. Increase the heat to medium and simmer the balls for 20-25 minutes or until the meatballs are tender and cooked through. Taste the sauce and adjust the salt, pepper and cayenne for heat if you want.
4. While the meatballs are simmering, make the couscous as directed by the package. While the couscous and meatballs are cooking, pour boiling water over the raisins and let soak to plump up. Once the cous cous is done, drizzle the olive oil over it and then drain the raisins and add them as well. Stir together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Once the meatballs are done, spoon the couscous into bowls and cover with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle parsley, cilantro and scallions over the top and serve immediately.
Makes enough for 4-6 servings.
If you like this Mediterranean meatball recipe, check out some of these other meatball recipes from around the web:
Orangette’s Falafel Spiced Lamb Meatballs
What’s Gaby Cooking’s Chicken Parmesan Meatballs
Foodie Crush’s Mexican Turkey Meatballs with Avocado Smash
Gimme Some Oven’s Saucy Asian Meatballs
Skinny Taste’s Turkey Meatball Spinach Tortellini Soup
claudia harris says
I’m catering a film opening later this month (local documentary). This looks perfect! Thanks so much!
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says
That sounds wonderful. I can feel the love and the flavor in that dish!! I can’t wait to try it. Thank you.
Sophia @ NY Foodgasm says
Oh man I love earthy foods especially where there is lamb involved, my Greek ancestors would be proud! I like the African twist on it, though really there are so many similarities in the cuisine and the spices used.
Margaret MacKenzie says
I share AJ’s enthusiasm. I love North African flavors. Can;t wait to prepare this. Thanks!
10 Legs in the Kitchen says
You wouldn’t have to ask me twice either! I have heard David Tanis mentioned a few times recently now but had not heard of him before (because apparently I live in a hole). I will have to check out his book (s) and column. Speaking of books, sounds like you are writing one? It would be great to see a post about that experience (perhaps you have done that already and I missed it since I am new to this blog).
Kevin | keviniscooking says
Irvin this is right up my alley. Looks fantastic… Love me da spices!
Tonya Engelbrecht says
I made this last night and it was amazing! I will admit I was less a couple ingredients (saffron and ginger!) which I am sure would have made it even better, but seriously, great recipe. It was a big hit with everyone in the house :)Thanks so much! Will be making this again!
Just finished eating them! Fantastic recipe! I wouldn’t change anything! Thank you so much for sharing! I will sure use this recipe for the rest of my life!
read carr says
this looks super tasty I’m cooking it for my school project I’m representing tunisia
Made this tonight. Soooo good! Don’t hesitate to make this. It’s really a great dish!
This dish is fall down on the ground delicious. Served to company and everyone wanted seconds. I was so looking forward to leftovers. I’m making it again tonight, just for me. Thank you for posting this.
Thank you for letting me know you liked it! I’m thrilled!
This was fabulous!!!!!!!
Annella Wheatley says
I’ve made this twice and it’s so delicious. The spices create a complex flavour that give so much depth to this dish. It’s a bit time-consuming but well worth it. Only problem is I always eat too much of it! Thank you.
I just made a batch of these……the kitchen smells amazeballs, and I had to scoff a couple to make sure that I got my share before the boys arrive……YUM!
I found and saved this recipe in the summer of 2015 and it has become a staple in my household. My husband is absolutely in love with the recipe and whenever I cook for friends and family they’re always asking for it!
When I first tried it, I remember thinking the ingredient list was daunting and so, so very long. You can imagine my surprise when I found this much easier to recreate than I first imagined it would be.
This recipe is truly amazing and 100% worth the effort. In fact, it was the recipe that really helped develop my love of cooking and gave me the courage to experiment with food!
Thank you, so very much for putting this recipe up!
Delicious & warming recipe, perfect dinner to make in the middle of winter! My 6 year old loved it too, great meal for my fussy little eater! Thank you for posting this great recipe.?
Sara S. says
Very yummy! And surprisingly not that hard to make. Thanks for the recipe! ??
Lydia Meadows says
Can I make any of this a day ahead? I am dying to try it!! But my work schedule is pretty crazy…
Lidia Bayliss says
Irvin, this dish is delicious! I didn’t have lamb but will add next time. I botched down some of the spices and it was still very flavorful. Thank you! How can I rate this?
Looking forward to trying tomorrow. Question: why dry out cubed bread and then when dry add water until absorbed?!! What am I missing here?!
Nancy Dressel says
I saw this recipe on the internet and it caught my eye, but when I wanted to make it, I couldn’t find the recipe. Searched and search and so glad I did! Wow! The look, the smell, the taste! My husband and I absolutely loved it!
Spices were not put together well, this didn’t taste good at all. Perhaps too much cloves, cinnamon and other. Needed to add dry bread crumbs and another egg to hold the meatballs together. Don’t think I will make again.