Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Turkish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I haven't had a chance to cook much lately as I have been traveling. I just returned from a great conference and the first thing I did was to go grocery shopping as I was craving fresh vegetables. But interestingly, the first thing I made involved canned tomatoes. I think it was because I got invited to teach in Italy and I ended up praising San Marzano tomatoes as my favorite kind. I was also informed that canned tomatoes actually were better for you as the phytochemicals in them that are so healthy are released when they are cooked. So, I made my favorite Turkish meatballs with Tomato Sauce that I serve over buttered rice, but they would be good over pasta too or as a sandwich filling for pita bread or a baguette. I used ground beef as that is what I had, but I usually make it with ground lamb. It can just as easily be made with a combination of the two, like in gyros. The side dish was some sauteed Swiss Chard with garlic. It was so good and as my new Italian friend said, "Italian tomatoes capture the sun in the can! The addition of Pomegranate Molasses and lemon gives the sauce a light sweet and sour flavor and the chopped mint and the cumin and allspice add a hint of mystery to the flavor that mesmerizes your taste buds. This dish has always been a big hit for a potluck and with my kids as well. Hope you enjoy it too!

Turkish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

1 pound ground lamb or ground beef or a combination of both
2 slices of dry sandwich bread, crust removed and crumbled
1/2 medium onion, grated (reserve the rest for the sauce)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (can use dried mint but use 1 -2 Tablespoons)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix bread and egg together in a small bowl to soften the bread. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, mint, cumin, salt, pepper and allspice. Mix with your hands until well combined. Then add in the egg and bread and mix thoroughly again. Shape meat into walnut size balls, flattening slightly to make ovals. Put olive oil into a large frying pan and put in meatballs. Brown on one side and then the other, then remove from the pan and put on a plate. Reserve drippings for sauce.

Tomato Sauce

1 large can (28 oz) San Marzano whole tomatoes (crush with fingers in a bowl)
1/2 medium onion chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (if unavailable, use balsamic vinegar)
2 Teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Reheat the drippings in the skillet and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar), sugar and allspice to the pan, mixing thoroughly. Taste for sweet sour balance adding more sugar if necessary. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. Return the meatballs to the pan and simmer over low heat fro 15 - 20 minutes. Take meatballs out and cook sauce for an additional five minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and return meatballs to pan. Remove from heat and put in a bowl. Serve with buttered rice

.Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element so that is covered - if you use lamb, it belongs to the Fire Element. The tomatoes add the Fire Element. The lemon juice and the pomegranate molasses, as they are both sour, add the Wood Element as does the olive oil. The allspice, cumin, mint, garlic and onions all bring in the Metal Element as does the white rice. The egg adds just a bit of the Water Element but more is needed so perhaps start the meal with a little soup or a side dish or starter of eggplant.


  1. Lillian!
    I love your blog and will try the recipe tomorrow! I also loved meeting you in Rothenburg. Hope you are well!
    Lovely Greetings from Neustrelitz,

  2. And it was so yummy!!