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 lamb burgers, 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 today’s Sunday Supper theme is meatballs, it seemed only right I shared a lamb meatballs recipe for such an occasion.
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 (as well as salmon cakes that are the next best thing), 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. They are sometimes made into meatballs and others times formed into more kebab-like sticks. Different places add different herbs, spices, nuts and fruit to them, but all are delicious.
Mine are probably most like some Persian ones (taking inspiration from Sabrina Ghayour’s great book Persiana, affiliate link but highly recommend) and are full of fantastic flavor from the herbs, spices and pine nuts in them. Middle Eastern meatballs are both 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.
Different ways to serve these lamb meatballs
I made the meatballs originally a while back on their own, without the sauce, and we made them in to some great pita sandwiches with baba ghanoush, tzatziki and tomato. We’d had some delicious kofte 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 (as I mentioned when I shared the baba ghanoush recipe) but 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 that was delicious. If I’m honest I thought the meatballs were just OK, but I loved having them in the tomato-pepper sauce 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. They are packed with flavor, both in the lamb meatballs and the sauce, and are a lovely balance of meatiness with the sauce and cheese.
They 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 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
- 1/2 onion or 1 small
- 5 tbsp parsley roughly chopped , a small bunch
- 3 tbsp dill roughly chopped, approx 1/2 of a 3/4oz box
- 1 lb ground lamb 450g lamb mince
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp 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 tbsp parsley chopped
- 2 oz feta 60g
- 6 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp 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!
- Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Meatballs with Maple Balsamic Sauce from The Crumby Cupcake
- Cheesy Stuffed Pepperoni Pizza Meatballs from The Weekend Gourmet
- Crab Cake Mini Meatballs with Tartar Sauce from The Texan New Yorker
- 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
- Stuffed Meatballs from The Freshman Cook
- Tofu Nuggets from NinjaBaker
- Turkey Meatballs in Orange Sauce from Pine Needles In My Salad
- Turkey Meatballs with Spinach and Goat Cheese from Our Good Life
- Russian Meatball Soup from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Main Dish Meatballs:
- All-Purpose Meatballs from Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Baked Meatballs with Swiss Chard from And She Cooks
- Bourbon Baked Bean Meatballs from Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Chicken Parmesan Meatball Casserole from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes
- Deep Dish Skillet Meatball Pizza from From Gate to Plate
- Fightin’ Irish Balls from Monica’s Table
- General Tso’s Chicken Meatballs from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Grandma’s Italian Meatball Subs from Family Around The Table
- Hamballs from A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Kefta Mkaouara (Moroccan Meatballs Tagine) from Curious Cuisiniere
- Keftedakia (Greek-style Meatballs) from Tramplingrose
- Meatball Subs from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Orecchiette and Meatball Skillet Dinner from Momma’s Meals
- Persian Lamb Meatballs from Food Lust People Love
- Roasted Vegetable Meatballs from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
- Slow Cooker Spanish Meatballs from The Chef Next Door
- Sriracha Sesame Turkey Meatballs from Grumpy’s Honeybunch
- Swedish Meatballs (Frikadeller) from Feeding Big
- Sweet & Sour Freezer to Slow-Cooker Meatballs from Wholistic Woman
- Tajine-el-Khoukh (Algerian Stuffed Peaches) from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Thai Meatball Lettuce Wraps from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Thai Spaghetti and Meatballs from Kitchen Gidget
- Thai Red Curry Meatballs with Coconut Curry Sauce from kimchi MOM
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