Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce


Wow.  Somehow when I read Sam Sifton’s article and recipe in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine, I just knew.  And last night, when I cooked it and subsequently tore into it, I was sure.  I’ve stumbled upon a new keeper, bound to make frequent appearances at my table, and maybe at yours too.

Extremely easy, and only a bit time-consuming (about an hour all together, mostly sitting around getting hungry as the yummy aroma wafts about the kitchen), it’s  bound to be a family pleaser–and in fact, is destined to be Felix’s welcome home meal when he returns from school in the not-so-distant future.

So, here it is, with my slight adaptations from Sam Sifton’s adaptations from brilliant Suzanne Goin’s original recipe.  If you try it this weekend, it’s bound to perk things up, and who can resist a little perking up?

Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

serves 4


For the meatballs:

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 egg yolks, extra-large

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch red-pepper flakes

Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste

2 pounds ground lamb

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/4 cup chopped parsley


For the sauce:

1 28-ounce can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small sprig rosemary

Red-pepper flakes to taste

1 medium onion, peeled and diced

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch ground cinnamon

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon white sugar

1  3-inch strip of orange peel, pith removed and the juice of that orange

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


For the topping:

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint leaves


To serve with: either spaghetti or couscous


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 compact balls that are a little larger than golf balls.

Saute the meatballs in batches in a skillet until they have a nice crust on them but are not cooked through.  Set them aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Next, make the sauce.  Heat a largish oven proof dutch oven, like le Creuset,  on top of the stove for about one minute.  Add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper and shake to combine.  Cook for another minute and then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and saute until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.  Put the can of tomatoes in a large bowl and whiz them up with your handy immersion blender until they are mostly smooth.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and peel , along with salt and pepper to the sauce.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third.  Adjust seasoning.

Transfer the meatballs into the sauce, putting them about 1/2 an inch from each other and bake for 15 or 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with plain spaghetti or couscous and top with crumbled feta and scattered mint.

–Adapted from Sam Sifton, who adapted the recipe from Suzanne Goin in “The A.O.C. Cookbook”




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6 Responses to Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

  1. Marty Moore says:

    A neat blog. Clare’s husband, Jeff Schapiro, is the political columnist for the RTD. The blog is very interesting, a foodie blog.

  2. Bunny says:

    Can’t wait to make this…looks delish!

  3. Looks and sounds delicious! I will be trying it out, thank you🙂

  4. Roberta Douma says:

    I will add this to my “must try” list. It was so nice to re-connect with you at the Boxwood Garden Club meeting! I enjoyed your talk and just planted a new crop of herbs this week.

    • clarefare says:

      Great to see you too, Roberta! I hope your herbs prosper, and I know you’ll enjoy having them right outside your door. I hope to see you again soon.

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