Dairy Free, Mains, Recipes

Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

February 3, 2013

I have a folder full of recipes. It is a folder of the sort you might see a twelve-year-old boy carrying around with a picture of some soccer star making a goooooaaaaaaaallllll in front of a stadium full of cheering fans.

I bought it at the drug store downtown when the stack of papers containing my scribbled recipes was threatening to take over our home office. And when I say home office I mean the desk in our living room.

Greek Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

On the front of the folder I have written the word BLOG in big bold red Sharpie letters just in case I leave it somewhere and a jealous twelve year old stuffs it into his backpack. When his mom rifles through his backpack to check for forgotten bananas and lost mittens she will see my folder full of recipes with BLOG written on the front and contact me immediately…. or throw the whole thing in the garbage.

Anyway, this is where I keep all the recipes that really rocked that I want to share with you on this blog. Problem is, I frequently forget about this folder with all its rockin’ recipes and just make a bunch of new stuff, but occasionally I run out of ideas and I remember my folder and revisit all the wonderful gems I have made in the past. Gooooooaaaaalllllllll indeed.

Greek Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

One of these treasures is this fantastic recipe for Greek-inspired meatballs in tomato sauce. It sounds very Italian but the fresh mint, cinnamon, marjoram, and nutmeg will have you thinking otherwise.The meatballs are shaped into svelte little ovals, breaded, and fried which make them a little bit crispy and more indulgent than your typical oven-roasted meatballs.

You can use ground lamb to really drive the Greek-point home or ground beef or a combination of both would also be delicious. There is a good amount of bread and eggs involved in this recipe so they are of the soft, fluffy variety, which is what I prefer in a meatball. Sausage and meatballs are not the same thing, but that’s just me.

Greek Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Greek Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Yield: 4

Adapted from Saveur Magazine


  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, grated
  • 1 large egg, and 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup milk (any kind will do, I used rice milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups stale bread cubes
  • 1 pound ground lamb or beef or a combination of the two
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and pureed
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Combine mint, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon marjoram, salt, pepper, 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, cayenne pepper, onion, egg, and egg yolk in a medium bowl.
  2. Combine milk and bread cubes in a separate small bowl and let sit 5 minutes to soften, pushing bread down into milk occasionally. Drain off milk, squeeze excess milk out of bread, and add bread to onion mixture along with meat. Combine thoroughly with hands breaking up any big chunks of bread. Form mixture into 20 even pieces and roll into ovals. Dredge each meatball in flour.
  3. Pour enough olive oil into a 12-inch frying pan to reach 1/2-inch up the sides. Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add meatballs in 3 batches, cooking each batch until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer each batch of meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat with remaining meatballs. Discard oil and wipe out frying pan.
  4. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in frying pan over medium heat and add garlic. Let cook about 30 seconds then add tomato paste and bay leaves. Cook, stirring constantly a minute more, then add remaining marjoram, cinnamon, nutmeg, tomato purée, and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice then add meatballs and cook until heated through, about 10 more minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve with rice pilaf, farro, or roasted potatoes.

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  • aida mollenkamp February 5, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Yes, yum, yes! I love the idea of the BLOG folder going in a kid’s backpack — haha!