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Lamb Meatballs in Beet and Pomegranate Sauce

Lamb Meatballs in Beet and Pomegranate Sauce

Renée Robinson

There are Meatballs, and Then There are These Meatballs.

I mentioned in my tahdig recipe post, that when I make tahdig I like to give it my full attention and have whatever else I’m serving either warming up in the oven or being grilled by someone else. In this case, I made this lamb meatball recipe the day before, and had it warming in the oven as I made the tahdig.

This is the kind of recipe that only gets better when left to sit for a day or two. The meatballs are pretty straightforward. Cook chopped onions in butter, add them to the ground lamb, along with eggs, crushed saltines, a little heavy cream and plenty of interesting seasonings. In this case I used harissa paste, crushed fennel and cumin seeds, black garlic powder, salt, pepper, and plenty of chopped parsley. 

I shared this recipe with a friend who served it to vegetarian friends. He substituted a vegan mince for the lamb and said it was highly successful. I haven’t tried it myself, but I trust his judgment and thought I’d pass along the tip. 

I do want to mention that I ground my own leg of lamb for these, using the medium sized grinding blade on my meat grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer. I’ve found that I really like this level of grind. It gives me a chunkier texture for my meatballs and keeps them from being at all mushy. But you could also use ground lamb from your supermarket and end up with a good result, as long as you don’t over mix them and handle them too much. I briefly broiled them in order to get them browned, but didn’t allow them to cook all the way through.

Prepared Lamb Meatballs in Pan

The sauce I made for these is where things get really exciting. It’s simple to make, but tastes fresh and interesting. I started out with the basics – sautéed onions in olive oil and a big can of tomatoes. Then came the fun part. I grated a peeled red beet and added it, along with a couple cups of pomegranate juice and dried fenugreek leaves, to the sauce. A little bit of fish sauce added depth to those profound flavors. After letting it cook for a half hour, basic salt and pepper seasoning finished it off. 

I added the meatballs to the pot and let them simmer for 10 minutes, turning them in the sauce a couple of times. You could serve it up at that point, or do as I did and cover the pot, let it chill overnight and warm it up in a 325° oven for about a half hour before topping it with plenty of pomegranate arils and parsley. 

The sauce is sweet and tart from the pomegranate juice, but earthy from the beets, tomatoes and onions. I highly recommend getting dried fenugreek leaves if you don’t already have them. Their flavor is musky, complex, and slightly bitter. I’ve been adding them to deeply flavored sauces, etc. and they add a beautiful herbal element of flavor. 

The combination of lamb meatballs with this sauce is right up there. It’s just great. And it is worthy of serving with the tahdig. No more words necessary. 

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Lamb Meatballs in Beet and Pomegranate Sauce

Recipe by Renée Robinson



Ground lamb meatballs are seasoned with crushed fennel and cumin seeds, along with a little harissa. They are bathed in a sauce of tomatoes, grated beets, and pomegranate juice. Oh, man, these are great.

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  • Lamb Meatballs
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter

  • 1 very large white onion (approximately 1 pound) finely chopped

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb - I used ground leg of lamb

  • 2 large eggs

  • 20 saltine crackers, finely crushed

  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely crushed

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Garlic Ultra Garlic Powder

  • 1/2 tablespoon Morton’s kosher salt

  • Black pepper

  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

  • Beet and Pomegranate Sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium white onion, (approximately 6 ounce) chopped

  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed

  • 1 small red beet - 4 ounces, peeled and coarsely shredded

  • 2 cups pomegranate juice

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried fenugreek leaves

  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce

  • Black pepper

  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup pomegranate arils

  • Flat leaf parsley leaves for garnish


  • Lamb Meatballs
  • Heat the butter over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and a large pinch of salt. Cook the onions, lowering the heat as needed until fully soft and golden colored - about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool for a few minutes. In a large bowl, using your hands, mix together the cooled onions and the remaining ingredients, using as light of a touch as possible. Moisten your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 20 meatballs (large golf ball size). Place on a foil lined half sheet pan and set aside.
  • Beet and Pomegranate Sauce
  • Make the Pomegranate and Beet Sauce: Heat a wide bottomed pot over medium high heat - I used a 4 quart brasier. Add the olive oil and when it’s hot and shimmering, add the onions. Cook for about 10 minutes, until they’ve softened and just begin to take on a little color, reducing the heat as needed. Add the tomatoes, grated beet, pomegranate juice, fenugreek leaves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, and a few healthy grinds of black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes, until reduced and thickened to a sauce consistency.
  • During the last 10 minutes of the cooking of your sauce, preheat your broiler with a rack about 5 inches from the heating coil. Broil the meatballs for 4 minutes. Turn them over and broil for another 2 minutes. Remove from the broiler and add the meatballs to the sauce. Let simmer for 10 minutes, turning the meatballs once or twice. Skim off excess fat.
  • I like to serve these straight from the pot. You can either serve them immediately or cover and refrigerate overnight or even a couple of days. If so, reheat it in the covered pot in a 325° oven for about 30 - 40 minutes. Garnish with pomegranate arils and a few parsley leaves. Enjoy!

2 Responses

  1. I love these meatballs! I’ve made the recipe twice now, and while neither time did I have saltine crackers (#1 used ground puffed kamut wheat, #2 used ground puffed rice) they still turned out super tasty and delicious! We are excited to share the recipe with friends and family. One day I’ll try it with saltine crackers, but I have to use up my puffed rice first. 🙂

    1. I’m so happy to hear this, Julia! And I’ll be they’re great with your puffed rice. Thanks so much for letting me know you enjoy it. That’s music to my ears.😊

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