Ahhh, meatballs. Comforting little bites of tenderness bathed in a flavorful sauce. I was really craving something along these lines today, and when I ran across Saveur Magazine’s recipe for Keftedes me Saltsa Domata, my mouth immediately started to water. I’ve mentioned my affinity for meat, tomatoes, and cinnamon before (it’s practically the holy trinity around here), and this recipe includes all three, as well as nutmeg, oregano, and mint.
I used grass-fed beef and lamb in my version, which I think is the perfect mixture for meatballs. The original recipe called for dried mint, but I much prefer the flavor of fresh. Slice or tear the mint leaves and add them at the last minute so that they retain their lively flavor. The fresh mint will compliment the lamb perfectly.
For the Meatballs:
1/2 a medium onion, finely diced or grated
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 whole egg plus 1 yolk
3/4 # ground lamb
3/4 # ground beef
S & P
Combine the onion, oil, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg and eggs in a large bowl and mix well. Add the beef and lamb and season liberally with salt and pepper. Combine the ingredients thoroughly with your hands.
For the mixture into meatballs or small logs. This recipe should make approximately 25-30 meatballs.
Brown the meatballs in olive oil over medium heat in batches until they have a little color. Don’t worry about cooking them all the way through, as they will finish cooking in the sauce. Transfer cooked meatballs to a parchment-lined sheet pan as you go and them place them into the fridge. Reserve the remaining fat in the pan for use in the sauce, if desired.
For the Spiced Tomato Sauce:
Reserved fat from cooking meatballs or 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 a medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. dry red wine
2 C. tomato puree
1 C. beef broth
S & P
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, saute the onion and garlic in the fat until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well, allowing it to toast a bit in the hot pan. Add the spices and stir just to combine, then deglaze with the wine. Add the tomato puree and broth and simmer for 30 minutes to reduce slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place the meatballs into the simmering sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes to warm through. Stir in a small handful of fresh mint, either torn or thinly sliced, just before serving. Garnish with more mint if desired.
This makes the perfect dinner served with steamed rice and a simple Greek salad.