Today’s recipe post, Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Toasted Fregula, follows up on the heels of a previous post for the star ingredient, Moroccan Seven Spice Mix. This spice mixture is essential for the authentic flavor in these wonderful, moist meatballs.
If you’re a frequent visiter here you know my love of international food and especially the Middle East. But the northern countries of Africa such as Egypt to the east and Morocco in the west, are near and dear. For me, the exotic spices are of utmost interest and for these meatballs the spices of black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, clove and nutmeg are intoxicatingly good. Made with a traditional ground lamb, feel free to use ground beef or chicken if you like.
My previous two visits to Egypt were incredible opportunities that my friend Dr. Arlene Wolinski, an Egyptologist here in San Diego, put together, and was our guide throughout. On another trip she planned for Morocco, we had previous plans with family and were not able to attend. How I wanted to visit Rabat, Fez, Erfoud, Ouarzazate, and the better known cities of Marrakesh and Casablanca. Another time for sure.
For now though this recipe is a fantastic reminder of the exotic flavors of Morocco.
I made this dish with a variety of bell peppers, zucchini and toasted fregula. If you are unfamiliar with fregula, or sometimes spelled fregola, it is a pasta that hails from Sardinia. It’s similar to Israeli couscous in size and shape. Fregula is a semolina dough which has been rolled into very small balls and is then toasted in an oven. It was imported by Ligurian immigrants coming from the Genoese colony of Tabarka in Tunisia, a fairly close neighbor of Morocco. I didn’t feel like a traditional pasta was quite the right fit for this and that the fregula added a toothsome quality to the final dish.
First let’s cook the fregula per package directions, drain if there is any excess liquid and set aside.
In a bowl mix together the ground lamb, parsley, mint, spice mix, egg and bread crumbs. Form into sixteen 1 inch balls.
I used three different colored bell peppers for visual appeal, but one variety is fine for this dish if you can’t find any. I cut the zucchini into inch rings and then quartered each for chunky pieces that wouldn’t break down and turn mushy.
In a large skillet, brown the meatballs on all sides over medium heat. Do in batches so as not to steam, but brown them. Set aside to rest.
Add olive oil and sauté the vegetables for 3 minutes, add the browned meatballs and deglaze pan with chicken stock, stirring to pick up all the browned bits on bottom of pan.
Add the cooked fregula and mix thoroughly.
Cook for 5 minutes more uncovered and ladle into bowls. I served this with some fresh harissa paste on the side for a little pep and heat. Enjoy!
Moroccan Lamb Meatballs with Toasted Fregula
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped mint
- 2 tbsp Moroccan Seven Spice mix
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 zucchini chopped
- 2 cups bell pepper chopped
- 1 cup fregula cooked
- 1 cup chicken broth
- kosher salt to taste
- Cook the fregula, drain and set aside.
- In a bowl mix together the ground lamb, parsley, spice mix, egg and bread crumbs. Form into 1 inch balls.
- In a large skillet, brown on all sides over medium heat. Do in batches so as not to steam, but brown them meatballs evenly first. Set aside to rest.
- Add olive oil and sauté the vegetables for 3 minutes, add the browned meatballs and deglaze pan with chicken stock, stirring to pick up all the browned bits on bottom of pan.
- Add the cooked fregula and mix thoroughly. Cook for 5 minutes uncovered and serve in bowls.