Meatballs Part II – Lamb with Spicy Tomato Sauce

A very delicious 1 meat meatball

In the spirit of recipe revisiting, Luke and I are adding another meatball recipe to our repertoire. I started making meatballs in college and I’ve always been pretty adamant that when making spaghetti and meatballs, your balls must have at least two kinds of meat. As a result, my recipe yielded a lot of balls, roughly 25-30. And I wasn’t being stingy with the diameter. These were some substantial meatballs. They’d last me aaaallll semester long. But, there are lots of meatball variations out there. There are meatless meatballs nowadays. There are restaurants devoted solely to meatballs. There are cookbooks only about meatballs. So one cannot discriminate. This recipe has only one meat – lamb, which is flavorful and multifaceted all on its own. It’s nicely spiced with some Spanish flavors and when paired with the spicy sweet tomato sauce you’ve got a perfect dinner meal. No need to abandon your classic meatball recipe. These lamb meatballs are just like a slightly hipper, Flamenco dancing relative.

Ingredients – Meatballs:

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 2 egg yolks
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 cup Manchego cheese, finely grated
  • scant 1/4 cup cream (milk or half & half also work)

Ingredients – Sauce:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fennel
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tsp sugar


  1. Caramelize the onions: In a large dutch oven or sauce pot, add olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the minced onions and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Turn heat to low and cook for another 15 minutes, until just starting to turn golden, stirring often to ensure onions don’t stick to bottom of the pan. You can add a bit more olive oil if necessary to avoid sticking. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.
  2. Tomato Sauce: Add additional olive oil and then the other minced onion to the same pot. Cook onions over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and spices, stirring to combine. Cook for 5 minutes, until bubbling, and then add the red wine and sugar. Bring sauce to a simmer and then lower heat, partially covering. Cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mixing meatballs: Combine the lamb with the onions. Season with some salt and pepper and then add the egg yolks. Combine the breadcrumbs, spices, and cheese and a separate bowl and then add to the lamb, followed by the cream. Use your hands to fully incorporate all of the ingredients.
  4. Cooking meatballs: Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat hands with a bit of oil and then roll out lamb mixture into 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls. Place evenly on the baking sheet. You should make around 20 meatballs, depending on your preferred ball size. Bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. Your aiming for nicely browned meatballs.
  5. Meatballs + Sauce: Once finished baking, transfer meatballs to your sauce and simmer until fully cooked, for another 10-12 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately with extra Manchego! We enjoyed with fregola, but the meatballs are also delicious solo, with some spaghetti, or a nice crusty slice of bread.

Details: Serves 4-6

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