Wherever they’re from … they’re good

By Wednesday, July 08, 2009 , , , ,

I think just about every cuisine has a meatball recipe — albóndigas (Spain), koftë (Turkey), polpette (Italy), frikadeller (Finland), bakso (Indonesia), gehaktbal (Netherlands), bola-bola (Philippines), Fleischlaibchen (Austria), köttbullar (Sweden), faggot (UK, seriously), pulpety (Poland), just to name a few.

My favorite ball of meat is the koftë – those wonderful spice- and herb-filled delights that hit the spot every time. While my favorite method of cooking koftë is to grill them, I live in Wisconsin so the grilling season is a short one and I want these puppies all year round. Because of this, I have come up with a baked version that, while lacking in that glorious charred exterior, is still juicy and flavorful.

I serve them with a lemon-scented, herb-flecked Greek yogurt sauce, grilled/roasted veggies (asparagus; Juliette tomatoes – can’t wait till they are in season; zucchini; eggplant, etc.) or some crisp cucumbers, and grilled naan or pita. I could eat about 20 of them, but I restrain myself to about six or eight. Here’s the recipe:

Oven-baked Koftë
Serve 4-6 adults


1 cup plain Greek yogurt (preferably whole-milk, but 2% would suffice)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Juice from ½ a lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ freshly ground pepper

1 cup firm white bread, torn into small pieces
1 small onion (about 1 cup)
¼ cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 lb ground lamb (from shoulder) – ground chuck or turkey thigh work well, too.
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (I've also used pistachios)

Special equipment: If grilling, you will need 6 wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes or 6 metal skewers (no soaking needed).


Make the sauce:
Stir together yogurt, mint, cilantro, garlic, lemon zest and juice and salt in a small bowl and chill.

Make the meatballs:
Cover bread with water in a bowl and soak 15 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of bread to remove as much excess water as possible, and then transfer to a bowl.

In a food processor, pulse onion, herbs and pine nuts until finely chopped, then add to bread along with lamb, salt and spices. Mix with your hands until well blended. Using a small ice cream scoop, form lamb mixture into balls (a scant tablespoon each).

Assemble and cook koftë:
Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal or preheat oven to 425 degrees.

To grill:Thread 6 meatballs ¼-inch apart onto each of 6 skewers. Grill koftë on oiled grill rack, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.

To bake: On a Silpat-lined baking sheet, roll meatballs in extra virgin olive oil until lightly coated. Place them ½-inch apart and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown, flipping once during baking.

Serve piping hot with yogurt sauce.

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  1. Yum!I also love meatballs!Love that you baked yours.I'd love to guide our readers to your site if you won't mind.Just add your choice of foodista widget to this post and it's all set to go, Thanks! -Alisa@Foodista