Turkish Meatballs in Tomato and Pomegranate Sauce Recipe

Whether you’re having people over to watch basketball tournaments or ask, “What basketball tournaments?” meatballs are always popular. Here is another twist to mix them up with Turkish flavors. The cooking of the Middle East abounds with meatball recipes made with various ground meats, such as lamb, goat, or beef, or a combination, notes meat expert Bruce Aidells, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. Often called kofta, these meatballs are popular for a number of reasons: They are inexpensive, easy to make, come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, and are very versatile. In this recipe, the meatballs are served with a sauce over bulgur—but they can be made as an appetizer, served over rice or pilaf, grilled and wrapped into pita bread, and more.

You could let these meatballs be the anchor for a Middle Eastern–inspired barbecue party; serve with dips like hummus, baba ghanoush, assorted olives, yogurt and cucumber, various salads, and lots of warm pita breads. A great many ways to entertain basketball-watchers—or to whip up anytime.

Turkish Meatballs in Tomato and Pomegranate Sauce

Makes 6 servings

112 lb. ground beef (85% lean)
12 c. fresh breadcrumbs combined with 14 c. Greek yogurt
1 large egg
12 c. minced onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
12 c. chopped cilantro or parsley
12 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. ground cumin
14 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
112 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. olive oil

Tomato and Pomegranate sauce
1 c. white onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
2 c. canned whole tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
18 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. pomegranate syrup (also called pomegranate molasses)
12 c. green onions, chopped
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste Tabasco sauce to taste

For meatballs: Combine all meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Knead and squeeze mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight. Form mixture into 24 or more meatballs about 112 inches in diameter.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add meatballs and fry in batches until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and fry on other side 5 minutes. Remove and set aside while you make sauce.

For sauce: Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat in pan. Reduce heat to medium, and add onion and garlic to pan. Stir and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan. Stir in pomegranate syrup and add meatballs. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover pan, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Stir in green onions and taste for salt and pepper. Add a little Tabasco if you like. Serve 3 meatballs per serving over bulgur or rice.

Cook’s Notes
› For grilling these meatballs, skewer several meatballs on a flat-edged skewer. (A round skewer will slip when meatballs are turned). Grill over medium charcoal or gas heat and turn frequently until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total.
› Instead of ground beef, use ground lamb or goat alone or combine with beef in any ratio you please.
› To make pita-filled sandwiches, gently warm leftovers in sauce. While they’re heating, wrap pita in foil and warm in an oven preheated to 350°F for 10 minutes. Cut pita in half and open up the pocket, placing meatballs in each half. Spoon over some sauce and garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt, a sprinkling of diced cucumber, finely chopped sweet onion, and some chopped, fresh dill, parsley, mint, or green onions.

Nutrition info (per serving): Calories 303 (154 from fat); Fat 17g (sat. 5g); Chol 102mg; Sodium 795mg; Carb 14g; Fiber 2g; Protein 24g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.