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Spicy Meatballs with Fragrant Tomato Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

These are not your average meatballs and sauce. This dish is a twist on Italian-style meatballs; here they’ve been kicked-up a notch with cayenne and warm spices, giving them exotic flavor.


  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juices
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. ground beef (preferably 85% lean)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 460
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 230
  • Fat (g): 26
  • Saturated Fat (g): 9
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14
  • Cholesterol (mg): 75
  • Sodium (mg): 1180
  • Carbohydrates (g): 31
  • Fiber (g): 6
  • Protein (g): 28


  • Combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tsp. of the cumin, the cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp. of the cayenne and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juices, 1 cup water, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a steady simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  • While the sauce simmers, prepare the meatballs: Mash the breadcrumbs and milk with a fork to a smooth paste. Add the beef, the remaining 1 tsp. cumin, half of the cilantro, 1-1/2 tsp. salt, several grinds of pepper, and the remaining 1/8 tsp. cayenne to the breadcrumbs. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Wet your hands to keep the mixture from sticking to them and roll a couple of tablespoons into 1-1/2-inch balls; you should have about 30. Nestle the meatballs into the sauce, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Stir in the remaining cilantro and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over couscous or white rice.


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Reviews (14 reviews)

  • User avater
    MotherMalone | 01/09/2016

    I really like this recipe, and enjoy the spiciness. I made it exactly as written and it was perfect. I can never understand people who change a recipe and then say that they didn't like it. I will often change things a second time if I think that the recipe needs something a little extra.... but not this one. It freezes well so I will often make it ahead as a go-to meal when I have company for an extended time. Always popular!

  • torahmama | 06/05/2014

    These are wonderful and are just as good the next day. I have served these many times for crowds and they are always a hit. No need to put them over a starch as they are great by themselves along with a salad.

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