Meatballs, which are central to the Sephardi kitchen and a mainstay of the Shabbat and holiday table, date back to pre-Inquisition Spain. There, Iberian Jewish and Moorish communities lived and cooked side by side. After the Inquisition, Jews took albóndigas (Spanish for "meatballs") with them to North Africa, Turkey, Italy, and other places they settled after being exiled. Note that Sephardi meatballs tend to be small and round. For a milder meatball, swap out half of the lamb for beef. When made with matzo meal instead of breadcrumbs, these meatballs make an enticing Passover mezze or main dish.
In this class, chef Leah Koenig shared a meatball recipe at De Gustibus from her latest book, The Jewish Cookbook. You can use matzo meal instead of breadcrumbs; either way, these meatballs make for an enticing Passover dish.
- 2 lb. (910 g) ground (minced) lamb
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- ½ cup (25 g) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ⅓ cup (45 g) breadcrumbs or matzo meal
- ¼ cup (30 g) pine nuts, minced
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more as needed
- In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, salt, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne, parsley, onion (with its juice), eggs, breadcrumbs, and pine nuts. Use your hands to mix everything together until well combined.
- Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the lamb mixture and roll it into a 1-inch (2.5 cm) ball. Set it on a baking sheet and continue scooping and rolling with the remaining lamb mixture.
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Working in batches, add the meatballs to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through, 7–10 minutes. If pan begins to look dry, add a little more oil. Serve hot. Store leftovers, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Leah Koenig's Menu
Georgian Pkhali (Spinach + Walnut Pate) with Za’atar Pita Chips
Marak Katom (Spiced Squash Soup) with Harissa
Meatball duo: Ashkenazi sweet/sour
Sephardi Albondigas, with an Arugula Salad
Thyme and Honey Roast Chicken
Mejadara (Rice, Lentils, Caramelized Onions)
Homemade Sesame Halva