We were looking for a meatball recipe that doesn’t have tomato sauce and this is it! I think this dish is even better than a traditional Italian meatball recipe because the mint and lemon sauce gives the meatballs a very refreshing flavor. I kept half of the meatball mixture in the refrigerator shaped into a loaf shape and wrapped it in some plastic wrap, so we could have some fresh meatballs the next day. If you have the time, the meatballs won’t fall apart as much if you mix them up and then put them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour before you form them into balls. These meatballs would be great served with some flatbread or a salad. Enjoy!
For the meatballs:
- 2 thick slices soft french bread soaked in 1/2 cup milk and broken apart into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Vidalia onion or purple onion
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped or use a garlic press
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or 85 percent lean ground beef
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup fresh mint finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 generous tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
For frying the meatballs:
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Lemon sauce for the meatballs:
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons + zest of 1 more lemon to finish the meatballs
- Sea salt to taste
- Place 2 thick slices of soft french bread in a small bowl with 1/2 cup whole milk and soak the bread turning it to coat both sides. Set the bowl aside to continue to let the bread soak in the milk.
- In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet and sauté the onion until softened and lightly browned on the edges. Add the garlic clove and sauté another minute being careful not to brown the garlic. Set the onion-garlic mixture aside.
- In a large bowl, add the milk-soaked french bread squeezing out some of the milk and breaking it apart into small pieces. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients (lemon zest, ground lamb, egg and egg yolk, fresh mint, dried oregano, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and parmesan cheese) and mix everything together with your hands being careful to mix until just combined (don’t overmix). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the meatball mixture in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour (you can skip the chilling step if you are in a hurry, but the meatballs may fall apart a little more).
- After the meatballs have chilled, place 1/4 cup all-purpose flour on a dinner plate and lightly roll each meatball in the flour to coat all sides with the flour.
- Form the meatballs to the size you prefer. I like my meatballs on the smaller side.
- Heat the 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pre-formed meatballs to the skillet and lightly brown them on one side. Flip the meatballs and lightly brown them on the other side. Continue to turn the meatballs every few minutes until cooked to desired internal temperature (The FDA recommends 165 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the meatballs are finished cooking, remove them from the skillet and set them aside on a plate.
- Remove any large pieces of cooked meatball left on the skillet by roughly wiping out the skillet with a paper towel. Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the 2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour to the skillet and stir it around with a spatula for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and stir with a whisk to combine the chicken broth and the flour. Bring the mixture to a simmer whisking often until thickened. Add the zest and juice of 2 lemons to the sauce and whisk to combine. Let the sauce simmer a couple more minutes.
- Return the meatballs to the lemon sauce and stir the meatballs to coat them with the sauce. Grate some additional lemon zest and sea salt to taste over the meatballs and serve immediately.