Greek Spiced Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

These meatballs were the main dish for our little Greek night last week.  We ate them with warm pita and feta cheese, and they were delicious.  I made a few changes to the original recipe from Fine Cooking magazine, July 2009.  I used ground beef instead of lamb, I used bread crumbs from a loaf of french bread, and took a shortcut with the tomato sauce.  Instead of making my own sauce and doctoring it, as the magazine instructs, I just used a good quality 28 ounce can of chunky tomato sauce.  The meatballs were very tasty, and the sauce was delicious.  It was a little thick when I reheated it the next day, so I added a little water and it was perfect.


Greek Spiced Meatballs

For the meatballs:
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, preferably sourdough
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 lb ground beef
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. minced red onion
1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried mint
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sweet paprika, preferably Hungarian
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
1 fresh bay leaf
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 cups Fresh Tomato Sauce (or a 28 ounce can of good sauce)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled


Make the meatballs:

Heat the oven to 400°F and lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and milk; let sit until the bread absorbs the milk, about 10 minutes.

Put the lamb in a medium bowl. Squeeze the excess milk out of the breadcrumbs and add them to the lamb. Add the egg, onion, parsley, oregano, garlic, mint, cinnamon, paprika, allspice, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. With your hands or a rubber spatula, gently work the mixture together until thoroughly combined. Moisten your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 16 balls (about the size of golf balls); arrange them on the baking sheet.

Bake the meatballs until cooked through and browned on top, 20 to 25 minutes.

Make the sauce:

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the oregano, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and allspice. Raise the heat to medium high and add the wine. Simmer for a minute or two until slightly reduced and then add the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce the heat to medium low. Let the sauce cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add more water if it seems too thick.

Add the baked meatballs to the sauce, turning to coat them. Cover the pan partially and cook until the meatballs are heated through, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the meatballs and sauce sprinkled with the feta.