Roasted Lamb Meatballs Recipe

A delicious dish from chef Paul Virant. "Although these meatballs are made primarily with lamb, I like to grind a little pork fat back into the mix. It's more neutral than lamb fat (which has a strong, gamey taste that isn't for everyone) and helps yield tender meatballs. A stand mixer with a meat-grinding attachment makes quick work of the grinding process. If you don't have a grinder, buy ground lamb and ask the butcher to grind some fat back for you. In a pinch, you can cube the fat into small pieces and then pulse it in a chilled food processor until the fat is roughly the same size as the ground lamb."


Lamb Meatballs
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb. lamb shoulder, trimmed, cut into cubes, and ground in a meat grinder
4 oz. pork fat back, cut into cubes and ground in a meat grinder
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp smoked sweet paprika
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Tomato-Bean Ragout (see below)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup sliced green garlic (white and light green parts only)*
1 lemon, for zesting

Tomato-Bean Ragout
1 cup dried cranberry beans**
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 cups Canned Tomatoes
3-1/2 cups chicken stock
2 or 3 bay leaves
6 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley
Kosher salt

* If green garlic isn’t available, finish the dish with two cups of sliced green onions instead.

** Fresh cranberry beans cranberry-coloured and speckled with bits of white. Yet once cooked, they turn a flat shade of brown. They are also called by their Italian name, borlotti. If unavailable, use dried pinto beans instead.


Lamb Meatballs

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl whisk together the egg, milk, breadcrumbs and cheese. Let sit for 15 minutes.

Step 2: In a dry sauté pan over medium heat, toast the fennel seeds until aromatic. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, fat back, garlic, paprika, fennel seeds, salt and red pepper flakes. Pour in the egg mixture. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until evenly distributed. The mixture will feel sticky. Form into 18-20 balls about 1-1/2″ in diameter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Meanwhile, bring the ragout to a gentle simmer. Using tongs, transfer the meatballs into the ragout, cover and simmer for at least 5 minutes.

Step 4: Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add the green garlic and sauté until soft, about 30 seconds. Spoon the bean ragout into 4 warmed bowls, ensuring that each portion has 3-5 meatballs. Top with a spoonful of green garlic. Grate lemon zest over each bowl to finish.

Tomato-Bean Ragout

Step 1: In a bowl, cover the beans with about 1″ of water and soak overnight. Drain.

Step 2: Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot and celery and cook until the vegetables start to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beans and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a boil, decrease to a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are cooked through, about 1-1/2 hours. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with about 1/2 tsp of salt.

See more recipes from Paul Virant and Kate Leahy.

Reprinted with permission from Paul Virant and Kate Leahy’s The Preservation Kitchen (2012 Ten Speed Press).