Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

Recipe from Suzanne Goin, adapted by Sam Sifton in New York Times Cooking

This recipe plays to children as well as sophisticated palates. These crisp lamb meatballs are topped with a fragrant North African-inspired tomato sauce, feta and mint. Serve with pita, plain pasta, bulgur or couscous. Yield – 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks, extra-large
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of ground cayenne, or to taste
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 128-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of ground cayenne
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 13-inch strip of orange peel
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves

 PREPARATION

Step 1 Heat broiler. In a large bowl, mix together the onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cayenne. Put the lamb in the bowl, and season it aggressively with salt and pepper. Add the bread crumbs and parsley, and combine the mixture well. Shape the meat into balls that are a little larger than golf balls.

Step 2 Grease a baking pan with olive oil, and put the meatballs onto it, spaced evenly. Place beneath the broiler, and cook, turning once or twice, until the meatballs are well browned, approximately 5 to 7 minutes, then set meatballs aside. Turn oven to 400.

Step 3 Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, or whizz them quickly in a food processor. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper and shake to combine. Cook for another minute, then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel, along with salt and pepper.\

Step 4 Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third. Adjust seasoning.

Step 5 Pour the tomato sauce into a large baking dish that you can put on the table. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce, putting them about ½-inch from each other. Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.

Step 6 Top with crumbled feta and mint.

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