Monday, February 6, 2012

Lamb Meatballs in a Mint Tomato Sauce

Confession: This was my first time ever making meatballs. I've been cooking pretty regularly for years, but meatballs have never been on my radar.  I'm not sure why.  They really should be, since I love bite-sized food.

In an effort to get away from the various vegetarian meals I've been posting recently on this blog, I dug deep into the recesses of the black hole that is my Bookmarks library.  I reached in and pulled out this recipe.  It's been on my mind to make these lamb meatballs for a while now so I figured there was no time like the present.

I love lamb.  Lamb chops, lamb ragu with mint, lamb burgers.  Let's make it all happen.  Let's also add these lamb meatballs into the rotation.  They were succulent and delicious and perfectly paired with the mint tomato sauce and a serving of cous cous.

Frankly, I don't know how I've managed to live so long without this.

Lamb Meatballs in a Mint Tomato Sauce
slightly adapted from Closet Cooking

Lamb & Mint Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mint, chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup breads crumbs, freshly made
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

1) Mix the lamb, onion, garlic, mint, egg, bread crumbs, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

2) Form the mixture into balls approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

3) Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.

4) Add the balls a few at a time, without crowding the pan, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Mint Tomato Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 batch mint lamb meatballs, browned (see above)
  • 1 handful mint, chopped
  • 1 cup couscous

1) In the same pan used to cook the meatballs, drizzle the oil in a large pan over medium heat.

2) Add the onion and saute for about 5-7 minutes.

3) Toss in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4) Pour in the wine and deglaze the pan.

5) Place the crushed tomatoes, oregano, cinnamon, salt and pepper into the pan as well.  Bring the sauce to a boil.

6)  Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the meatballs, and simmer for 20 minutes.  (I didn't want the sauce to reduce too much, so I covered the meatballs for the first 15 minutes, then uncovered the pan for the remaining 5 minutes.)

7) Meanwhile, make the couscous as directed on the package.

8) Remove the pan with the meatballs and sauce from the heat.  Sprinkle in the mint leaves to finish the dish.

9) To serve, scoop the cous cous onto a plate, then top with the meatballs and finally the mint tomato sauce.

Before we get into exactly how fantabulous this meal tasted, I have to implore you to please please please use fresh breadcrumbs.  That means you should make them yourself instead of opening up a container that you purchased from the store.  Don't get me wrong.  I, too, have been one of those packaged breadcrumbs people in the past, but since I started making my own I've been converted!  It's so easy too.  Grab some bread, toast it, and grate it to make the crumbs.  If you want to be even lazier, you can pull the toasted bread apart in small chunks to make the crumbs.

What I ended up with more than made up for the extra work involved in making the breadcrumbs.  Each bite of the meatball was filled with mint and hints of smoke from the spices.  Pair the meat with the sauce and the taste is amplified to "out of this world".  Since the sauce has a very similar flavor profile to the meat, they work excellently together.  This is comfort food at its best.

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