Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

Today I bring you a big ‘ol pan of comfort food! Spicy comfort food that is—and a hefty sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese for good measure. If I had my choice in life, this is the type of food that I would want to eat everyday. Simple, uncomplicated dishes that are full of flavor.

In every good recipe, I feel like there is the one clincher ingredient. The ingredient that helps round out the dish and makes us come back for seconds…and possibly thirds if you know what I mean.

As you can probably guess, the ‘seal the deal’ ingredient for these lamb meatballs is, of course, the spicy harissa! Have you guys used it before? It is quite possibly one of my favorite condiments ever! I hate the word condiment, but there is really no other way to describe it.

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

For those that are unfamiliar, harissa is a traditional Moroccan hot chile pepper paste. Traditionally, it is used as a spread or topping, and added as a flavoring component to many different types of dishes, including stews, braised meats, and soups. In the past, harissa has been a little tricky to find and the most readily available version came packaged in a aluminum tube (similar in texture to a tomato paste). Mediocre at best.

That is….until Mina Harissa was born! I’ve been trying to find a great staple harissa for a while now, and Mina Harissa is my absolute favorite for two reasons. Firstly, it has an amazing texture similar to a slow-cooked tomato sauce. Secondly, it only has six ingredients: red red bell pepper, red chili pepper, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and salt.

Spicy, but not overwhelmingly hot. I could eat this stuff with a spoon….and I have.

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

One of my absolute favorite ways to use harissa is to add it to meat dishes, specifically meatballs. It adds so much flavor and really takes the entire dish to a new level.

In this case, I used it in a Greek-inspired meatball dish comprised of a hearty, rustic tomato sauce seasoned with bay leaves, oregano, and a cinnamon stick–and spicy harissa lamb meatballs. The meatballs were a twist on one of my favorite recipes, and are made from a very simple mixture of ground lamb, onion, parsley, oregano, Mina spicy harissa, an egg, and some milk-soaked bread (which helps bind them and keep them extra juicy).

Add some feta, stick it in the oven for 20 minutes, and you have a pretty glorious dinner! I was happy to eat this straight from the pan, but this dish would be great on top of orzo pasta or whole-wheat couscous!

P.S. If you’re not into spicy foods, you can also try Mina Harissa’s equally as a good mild harissa!

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

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Ingredients:

Rustic Greek Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 medium sized garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 grated carrot (roughly one small carrot)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce cans of diced tomatoes + 1/4 cup water.
  • salt
  • pepper

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs:

  • 1 slice whole wheat sandwich bread, crust trimmed
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced onion
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Mina Spicy Harissa
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt
  • safflower/canola oil
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Rustic Greek Tomato Sauce:

  1. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the canned tomatoes until mostly smooth, but still a little bit chunky. Set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in shallow, large (3-4 quart) sauté pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the onion and sauté for roughly 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and sauté for an additional minute or two, until fragrant. Add the grated carrot and dried oregano, and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes and water, and allow the mixture to simmer slowly for 30 minutes covered. Stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and bread and bring up to low heat. Once the bread has fully absorbed the milk, remove it from the heat, place in small bowl and mash it with a fork until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the onion, ground lamb, egg, parsley, Mina Spicy Harissa, and dried oregano. Season with salt, and combine ingredients together gently with your ingredients, without pressing or squeezing (extra tip: sea–son and cook a small patty to test seasoning and adjust as necessary!). It should be very loose and moist.
  4. Carefully shape the mixture into 1.5-inch diameter thick patties (without squeezing—they should be loosely held together, not tightly compact) and set aside.
  5. In heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet or sauté pan, heat a small layer of safflower or canola oil over medium-high heat. Once heated, place the meatballs carefully into the pan (you will need to do this in two batches, depending on size of pan—do not overcrowd!). They should sizzle when you place them in the pan.
  6. Sear the meatballs until brown on all sides. They will be delicate, so flip carefully with a spatula to prevent them from falling apart. Once brown, remove onto paper-towel lined plate. **It is ok if they are not cooked all the way through, because they will be added to the simmering tomato sauce.**
  7. Once all of the meatballs have been seared, place carefully into the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the mixture with the crumbled feta cheese, and place in the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve immediately.
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Spicy Harissa Lamb Meatballs with Feta

This post and recipe development project was sponsored by Mina Harissa. All opinions are my own–and I really do use it in my kitchen on a regular basis! Thank you for supporting the brands I love!