Philacatessen | Persian Meatballs: Koofteh Rizeh

meat ball
Photo by Keri White

Meatballs tend to be a crowd pleaser and a fairly economical way to stretch ground meat.

We were contemplating a 1-pound package of ground beef last week and wanted to try something different. These spiced meatballs fit the bill; they were relatively simple to prepare, a tasty departure from the traditional Italian version and used, mainly, pantry ingredients.

We served them with brown rice and a green salad — the meatballs and sauce pack plenty of flavor, so simple sides work best. 

Persian Meatballs

Makes about 16 meatballs

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef (lamb, turkey or vegan meat can be substituted)
  • ⅓ cup minced shallots or onions
  • ⅓ cup panko bread crumbs (or whatever bread crumbs you have on hand)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil for frying

For the sauce:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt, black pepper and turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup boiling water

Blend the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 

Using a tablespoon measure, scoop small meatballs and pack them firmly.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium, and fry the meatballs on all sides until brown. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Scrape the bottom of the skillet to release the browned bits; pour off all but 2 tablespoons of oil and prepare to make the sauce.

Add the onions to the skillet and sauté until fragrant. Add the spices and continue cooking until the onions are softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, lemon juice and boiling water; bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat.

Return the meatballs to the skillet, stir to coat them with sauce and simmer for about 40 minutes until cooked through.


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