Lamb Balls with Red Sauce and Mint
Yield 36-40 balls
Sweet, tender, herbalicious lamb balls and tangy red sauce come together like two peas in a pod! When you finished rolling, browning, and simmering, just plop a spoonful of tangy full-fat Greek Yogurt on the side, sprinkle a little fresh chopped mint over the top, and serve with a half a cup of delicate long-grain basmati rice. Roast cumin-dusted carrots or slice a fresh mango to round out this incredibly delicious recipe.
Cook’s note: The first time I made these lamb balls, I didn’t make the red sauce. They were tender and juicy enough to serve with a side of rice and yogurt. Then I sliced the leftover lamb balls super thin and topped on a flatbread with feta cheese and tomatoes. The red sauce is a nice addition though. I adapted this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. You can prepare lamb balls and red sauce ahead up to several days or freeze and thaw 24 hours ahead to save time. Instructions for the balls without the sauce are included in the recipe below. See step 15.
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
1 sweet yellow onion, peeled and cut in half from tip to root
1 stick unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash ground cinnamon
Dash red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste
2 pounds ground lamb
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cup plain breadcrumbs, or panko
3 tablespoons chopped parsley flat, plus one sprig for garnish
3 mint sprigs, leaves only
1 ½ teaspoon rosemary, chopped
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoon butter, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 small carrot, minced
1 celery stick, minced
1/2 shallot, minced or ¼ teaspoon onion powder
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups long grain basmati rice, cooked according to package instructions
Garam masala, garnish
Greek yogurt or sour cream, garnish
Orange zest, garnish (optional)
Prepare the red sauce
- Add the crushed tomatoes, butter and onion to a large stock pot over medium-low heat.
- Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and thyme.
- Stir occasionally until the onion softens to opacity and falls apart. Remove and discard the onion. Add the sugar and taste. Adjust with seasons if necessary.
- Reduce the sauce to low and stir occasionally while you prepare the lamb balls.
Prepare the lamb balls
- Break up the lamb and place it in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the eggs, breadcrumbs, and herbs to the bowl.
- Add the flour to a dredging container or shallow bowl.
- Heat a medium skillet over medium heat for several minutes. Add the 1 tablespoon butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil to the pan. Swirl to coat.
- When the butter foams and subsides, add the carrots, celery, and shallots (or the onion powder if using instead) to the skillet. Stir and cook for three to four minutes, careful not to brown the shallots. Reduce the heat to medium-low if needed.
- Add the mustard, Worchester sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the vegetables. Stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook one additional minute to soften the vegetables.
- Remove the vegetables from the heat and add the mixture to the lamb.
- Use your hands to combine the mixture. Do not over mix. Form the balls (about the size of a golf ball or smaller).
- Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. Return the skillet over medium heat to brown the balls.
- Melt the remaining butter and olive oil.
- Roll the balls in the flour.
- Brown the balls on all sides.
- Add the balls to the sauce and repeat the rolling in the flour and browning process until all the balls are browned and cooking in the red sauce.
- Rinse and prepare the rice according to the package directions.
- Or if you want the balls without sauce, place the lamb balls on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook in a preheated 350-degree oven for ten to fifteen minutes, less for smaller balls, or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees.
- Either way, before you serve, garnish with a small amount of Garam Masala, chopped mint, a dollop of Greek Yogurt or sour cream and orange zest. Serve immediately with cooked rice.
- Cover and refrigerate any leftovers. Or freeze in an airtight container for up to two months.