These kofte-style lamb meatballs are filled with delicious herbs, spices & pine nuts, then made even better served in a tomato-pepper sauce with a feta-yogurt topping. Tasty comfort food.
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You have probably noticed that I'm a bit of a fan of lamb (in case the braised lamb shoulder chops, lamb tagine, rack of lamb, roast lamb leg, lamb rogan josh, lamb tagine, lamb pilaf and more didn't give it away...you get the picture 🙂 ). Since we were going with a meatball theme today, I decided it was about time to make some lamb meatballs to add to the collection.
Meatballs make fairly regular appearances on our menu as they can be both delicious and versatile. I've shared one or two pork meatball recipes before, which show this versatility, being able to be eaten a couple ways.
These kofte-style lamb meatballs are no exception - you can enjoy them alongside a range of mezze dishes, have them in pita breads for a tasty sandwich or have them over couscous or pasta or with a salad. They make a great lunch or a lighter dinner, plus you can crack an egg in there to make a hearty brunch.
Why kofte style lamb meatballs?
These lamb meatballs are inspired by kofte, as the name suggests, also known by various other names across the Middle East region where they originate. I've made the Turkish-style kofte, which you often have as more kebab-like sticks, but you'll find many meatball variations as well across the region. Different places add different herbs, spices, nuts and fruit to them, but all are delicious.
Middle Eastern meatballs are typically made with lamb and usually no breadcrumbs. Instead you add onion and often nuts and/or dried fruit so you are more adding flavor rather than bulking them out.
The ones in this dish are probably most like some Persian ones (taking inspiration from Sabrina Ghayour's great book Persiana, affiliate link but highly recommend) . They are full of fantastic flavor from herbs, spices and pine nuts mixed in with the meat.
Different ways to serve these lamb meatballs
I made these meatballs originally a while back and we made them in to some great pita sandwiches with baba ghanoush, tzatziki and tomato. We had some delicious kofte when we were in Cyprus and Greece and I was keen to make them myself, as somehow I never had. They were delicious and I have kept meaning to share them. However I wasn't totally convinced by the photos so wanted to re-make them.
Then I had a variation on shakshuka at a local cafe that had lamb meatballs in it. If I'm honest, I thought the meatballs themselves were just OK. But the tomato-pepper sauce in the dish paired really well and the spicy labneh they served with it was fantastic.
So, it got me thinking about combining my really tasty lamb meatballs with a sauce, and the result was even better than they had been before.
How to make kofte style meatballs
The meatballs are really easy to make in a food processor, but you can also make them by hand, just cut the onion very fine. Then you simply brown them on all sides in a skillet/shallow pan. The sauce is, as I've already implied, very much like a shakshuka base with onions, red pepper and tomatoes as well as some garlic and herbs.
You cook it in the same pan you cook the meatballs in so it picks up all the delicious flavors they have left behind. Then you put the meatballs back in, warm it through, and top with a few more herbs and a cheesy-yogurt sauce. You can just use some plain feta if you prefer, but I went for a feta-yogurt blend with a bit of cayenne as I think both the creaminess and the heat work really well with everything else.
I didn't totally have my brain in gear when I made these and so felt the tomatoes were a little short, so I have given a range in the recipe below. The lower end is what I used, but I think you could easily double for more of a sauce rather than almost a tomato-pepper side. Both are good, just do what you prefer. You can also use tinned tomatoes as well.
Note the photos here are also using half the quantities listed below in case you think it doesn't seem right - I froze the rest of the meatball mixture for another time.
These kofte-style lamb meatballs are thoroughly delicious and I think might have become my new warm lunch favorite. Everything has so much flavor. The dish is also a great balance of meatiness, the tasty vegetable-based sauce and slightly sharp creamy cheese.
This might take a little more time than some dishes, but the flavors here are so fantastic I think it's definitely worth the extra effort, and they are still not difficult. Plus, you can do bits ahead of time. Give them a try, and I'm sure you'll enjoy them just as much as we did.
Try these other ground lamb recipes:
- Lamb kofte (köfte)
- Hummus with lamb (hummus kawarma)
- Lamb burger with feta sauce and minted tomato salsa
- Plus get more lunch recipes in the archives.
I made this in my cast iron braiser which worked very well.
See more of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Kofte-style lamb meatballs in a tomato-pepper sauce
For the meatballs
- 1 oz pine nuts 30g
- ½ onion or 1 small
- 5 tablespoon parsley roughly chopped , a small bunch
- 3 tablespoon dill roughly chopped, approx ½ of a ¾oz box
- 1 lb ground lamb 450g lamb mince
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the sauce
- 2 tablespoon olive oil possibly more
- 1 onion or 2 small
- 2 red peppers
- 3 cloves garlic or 4 if smaller
- 4 cups tomatoes 4-8 cups diced depending on how sauce-like you want - picture shows with 4 (4 large tomatoes) but I think more would be better; can also use canned/tinned
- 5 tablespoon parsley chopped
- 2 oz feta 60g
- 6 tablespoon Greek yogurt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- First prepare the meatballs. Lightly toast the pine nuts either under a broiler/grill or in a dry skillet/frying pan. Keep a close eye on them as they can burn quickly.
- Roughly dice the onion, garlic and herbs and put these and the pine nuts in a food processor. Pulse until relatively fine. Add the ground lamb, egg, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon and pulse until combined. You may need to use your hands to finish it off.
- Take roughly tablespoonfuls of the mixture (I use my tablespoon measure as it also starts rounding them in to meatballs!) and roll the mixture into small balls.
- Warm 1tbsp oil in a large pan and cook the meatballs in batches on all sides (at least 2-3) and remove to drain once they are cooked. Repeat until they are all cooked, adding more oil as needed. (These can be cooked ahead of time and allowed to cool, refrigerated if not using soon after cooking for a day or two. They can also be frozen and thawed before combining with the sauce, below.)
- Halve and thinly slice the onions for the sauce, cutting longer pieces in half, slice the peppers, cutting longer lengths in half as well, and dice the tomatoes. Crush or finely chop the garlic.
- Cook the onion over a medium heat (in the same pan as the meatballs unless you have pre-cooked and frozen of course), adding a little more oil if needed.
- After the onion has cooked a minute or two, add the peppers and garlic and cook for around 5 minutes until all are softening but not browning, stirring regularly.
- Add the tomatoes and parsley and cook for another 5-10 minutes until all is becoming very soft, stirring now and then and scraping any browning from the bottom of the pan into the sauce. (The sauce can also be made ahead of time and cooled and refrigerated a couple days.)
- Push the meatballs into the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the meatballs are warmed through, turning if needed (covering will help if you have a lid for the pan).
- Meanwhile crumble the feta and mash it in to the yogurt along with the cayenne pepper.
- Serve the meatballs with the sauce, with dots of the feta-yogurt mixture on top. It's good served with bread and/or a salad or can be served over couscous or pasta.
Need more meatball inspiration? Try these!
- Garlicky Shrimp Meatballs from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Grilled Korean Meatballs from Palatable Pastime
- Slow Cooker Turkey Appetizer Jelly Meatballs from Noshing With The Nolands
- Russian Meatball Soup from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Main Dish Meatballs:
- General Tso’s Chicken Meatballs from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Kefta Mkaouara (Moroccan Meatballs Tagine) from Curious Cuisiniere
- Meatball Subs from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Persian Lamb Meatballs from Food Lust People Love
- Slow Cooker Spanish Meatballs from The Chef Next Door
- Sriracha Sesame Turkey Meatballs from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
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