29 Feb, 2024
Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
230g finely diced onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 bay leaves
½ cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 400g cans diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g stale bread crumbs
80ml cup milk
2 tablespoon finely chopped onion
450g ground lamb
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons salt
Polenta for serving
To make the sauce, puree the tomatoes in a blender until mostly smooth, with a few chunks remaining here and there. Set aside.
Heat the oil in wide shallow pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté́ 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and translucent. Add the garlic, bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and sauté́, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the oregano, pureed tomatoes and 60ml water, and allow the mixture to simmer covered, over the lowest possible heat, for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, pour into a 22 by 33cm baking pan and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the meatballs, heat the oven to 190ᵒC.
Combine the bread and milk and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
In a separate bowl, combine the onion, lamb, egg, parsley, harissa, oregano and salt. Use a fork to mash and soften the bread, which will have absorbed the milk. Add to the bowl and use your hands to gently incorporate the ingredients, without pressing or squeezing; it will be moist and quite loose. Shape the mixture with your hands or a small scoop into slightly smaller than golf ball-sized rounds and set aside.
Lightly coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet or non-stick sauté́ pan with canola or another neutral oil. Heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the meatballs in the pan leaving some space around them so that you can turn them over. (You’ll probably need to do two batches, depending on the size of your pan.)
Sear the meatballs on all sides until they are golden brown. They will be somewhat delicate, so use a wide spatula to flip them, and prevent them from falling apart. Remove onto paper-towel lined plate. (They don’t need to be fully cooked since they’ll be finished in the oven in the tomato sauce).
Once all of the meatballs have been seared, arrange them in the pan with the tomato sauce and place in the oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve immediately.