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Lamb Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

By Peggye Marks on Aug 05, 2022

Here is the super delicious recipe for meatballs and marinara sauce, which is versatile and can be used with pasta or gnocchi. Sprinkle cheese on meatballs to add more flavors.


For Marinara

1 Onion, diced
2-3 Garlic cloves, minced
2 TSP dried chili flakes (or 2 – 3 whole dried chilis)
1 Large tin (28 oz) Italian crushed tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes if you can find)
1/2 Cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste 
4 Tablespoons olive oil

For the Meatballs

1 LB ground lamb
1/2 Cup chopped onion
1/2 Cup fresh mint leaves- chopped
6 Sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from hard stem
1/4 Cup pine nuts – lightly chopped
1/4 Cup sultanas or raisins
2-3 Teaspoons dried bread crumbs (depends on texture of mixture)
Zest of one lemon (or finely chopped lemon rind from 1 whole preserved lemon) - optional
1 Egg, lightly whipped to blend the yolk and whites together
1 TSP salt, or to taste
1/2 TSP black pepper, or to taste
1/4 Cup of olive oil plus 2 tablespoons olive oil (keep separate)
Grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Lamb Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

Instructions for Marinara Sauce

1. Place oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. When hot, add the onions and garlic.  Cook until they start to go clear (do not brown).

2. Add the salt, chili flakes, tin of tomatoes and basil.

3. Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes or longer. The longer you gently cook the sauce, the deeper the flavors will develop.

4. Prepare the meatballs while sauce simmers.

Cook’s Note:  This marinara sauce can be made a day ahead. Is also very versatile and can be made alone to us

Instructions for Meatballs

1. Heat the 2 T of olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat.  When hot, add the onion and cook until everything is soft, about 4 – 5 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. In a large mixing bowl add the lamb, mint leaves, thyme, pine nuts, sultanas, lemon, salt, pepper and egg.

4. Add the cooled onion.

5. Mix all together with your hands.

6. Add the breadcrumbs so you have a consistency that is not too dry nor too wet.  The meat should easily stay together.

7. Heat a large skillet and add the 1/4 cup of olive oil.

8. Roll the meatballs to golf ball size (or whatever size you prefer) and add to the hot oil.

9. Don’t move the meatballs for about 3-4 minutes so they become brown and a crust forms which helps keep the meatball to stay together. Cook on all sides.  If worried about the middle being cooked, can either turn the heat to lower and continue cooking, or take the hot pan with meatballs and place in a preheated 350F oven for about 10 minutes.

10. Serve meatballs with marinara sauce spooned over the top and sprinkle with a good amount of Parmesan Reggiano cheese.