Lamb Meatballs With Harissa Yogurt Sauce

Executive chef Robert Lia of Braemar Country Club in Tarzana, Calif., shares his recipe for a tapas dish he discovered when visiting Jerez in southern Spain. Rather than using the typical red wine to make the marinara, he uses chardonnay to mirror the delicate flavors of the yogurt and harissa.

3 pounds ground lamb
1 onion, diced fine and sauteed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pinch black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano
1 lemon, zest only
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon paprika
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
Harissa Yogurt Sauce (recipe follows)
fresh mint

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients — except the marinara and yogurt sauces and mint — with your hands or a spoon. Refrigerate the meat mixture for 24 hours. Form into 2-ounce balls (makes about 24 meatballs). Cook the meatballs in the Marinara Sauce for 20 minutes on a low simmer. The meatballs should be firm to the touch when finished.

To serve as tapas, spoon the Harissa Yogurt Sauce equally in the center of six plates. Neatly arrange four meatballs on the yogurt sauce. Optionally, to serve on a platter, thread bamboo skewers with meatballs and drizzle with yogurt sauce. For either presentation, garnish with fresh mint and some of the marinara used to braise the meatballs.

Yield: 6 servings


2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chardonnay wine
1 can (16 ounces) whole tomatoes with juice
8 ounces V8 juice
1 teaspoon sugar
10 basil leaves, stems removed
salt and pepper

In a large, deep pan, slowly roast garlic in olive oil over low heat for 20 minutes or until soft and fragrant. Deglaze pan with the chardonnay and simmer for 3 minutes to remove the alcohol’s bitterness. Add tomatoes, juice, sugar, and basil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10 more minutes. Blend thoroughly using an immersion blender or a Vitamix food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon harissa paste
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mint, and lemon zest. Swirl in the harissa paste. Season with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chef’s Tip: “After blending your ground lamb with spices and other ingredients, refrigerate it for 24 hours. The meatballs will hold together and look better when you cook them.”


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