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Tender Lamb Meatballs in Fragrant Tomato Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

These meatballs are light in texture but very deep in flavor, and the tangy tomato sauce is savory and rich.


  • 3/4 cup fresh soft breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. dry white wine or water
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, lightly packed
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup homemade or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 14-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 5-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 drops hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or mint, or a mix


  • Put the breadcrumbs in a small bowl and sprinkle them with the wine or water. Toss to moisten them evenly. In a large bowl, gently mix the lamb, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, minced garlic, salt, and pepper with your hands. Don’t squeeze or overwork the mixture, but do try to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Roll the mixture into about 16 balls.
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat, and add a layer of meatballs, leaving enough room between them so you can turn them without breaking. (Because of the cheese, the meatballs may stick a little, so use a spatula to gently dislodge them as you turn them. Take care not to burn the browned bits that stick to the pan; they’ll add flavor to the sauce.) Brown the meatballs gently on all sides; if the pan is crowded, do this in batches. It should take about 6 minutes per batch.
  • Transfer the meatballs to a plate, pour off any fat from the pan, add another 2 Tbs. of olive oil, and add the onion. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly until the onion is very soft and starting to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves, turn the heat to high, pour in the wine, and boil until it’s reduced to a glaze, about 1 minute. Add the broth, all the tomatoes, 1/3 cup of the juice from the tomatoes (discard or freeze the rest of the juice for later), and the rosemary. Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon or a spatula until they’re in small pieces.
  • Nestle the meatballs in the sauce, cover the pan, and adjust the heat to a lively simmer. Cook the meatballs until they’re no longer pink inside, shaking the pan so the meatballs get evenly moistened, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a clean plate, increase the heat to high, and boil the sauce until it’s fairly thick and very tasty, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and the hot sauce, and then taste and add salt if necessary.
  • Return the meatballs to the sauce and gently reheat them. Serve immediately over rice or couscous, with a spoonful of yogurt drizzled over each -serving and a sprinkling of the fresh herbs.

To make it a complete meal, ladle the meatballs over plain couscous or Fluffy White Rice.


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Reviews (4 reviews)

  • cookingjudy | 10/02/2021

    This is an amazing recipe. I prepare as written with the addition of one egg to the meatballs. I find the recipe to be straight forward and easily prepared in one hour. I do bake the meatballs at 375 degrees for 13 minutes. The sauce is wonderful and the yogurt/mint is the finishing touch.

  • cinnamongrl311 | 03/31/2013

    i thought this was great...made a few modifications though...i thought the sauce was too liquidy even after reducing, so i blended it --major improvement. served with crumbled feta rather than yogurt. The side was roasted eggplant and quinoa. otherwise, easy and tasty. the sauce is very aromatic.

  • adri367 | 02/15/2013

    This was amazing! A lot of work and constant monitoring required, but definitely worth it. Worthy of a special occasion!

  • User avater
    Asmodeus | 04/13/2010

    loved it - but had to add back qn egg

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