I thought I might start the month with something I enjoyed very much as a kid. My mom used to make us this recipe, and my favorite way to eat it was, of course, on top of spaghetti. That is probably why spaghetti with meatballs is my favorite dish of all-time. Not any meatballs though. Moroccan meatballs.
It’s a thing, I swear.
Little back story:
In a summer of my childhood, me, my cousin and my parents spent a couple of weeks in my uncle’s beach house. I love that house to pieces. We used to go there every summer, usually with my cousins and we would just have a blast.
I remember that one summer more than the others for a specific reason. My mom was making dinner for just us, the kids. And because of that, she used to ask us (me) what we wanted for dinner. That’s a big deal, because that gave me the possibility to say: “Spaghetti with meatballs”, as many times as I could.
And I did. Every night.
And so my mom made us spaghetti with meatballs every night. I guess she did it because she wanted me to realize that if I was to eat my favorite dinner every night, I would grow sick of it. She was wrong. I still love it. And I loved that summer partly because of it.
So how are Moroccan meatballs any different from any meatballs.
Here is the main difference: No eggs, No breadcrumbs, No milk … No nonsense
That last part is important.
With all those ingredients gone, how do you make sure that your meatballs are not dry and rubbery? I can answer you in two folds:
- Use 15% fat ground beef. Makes for tastier meatballs, and effectively eliminates the rubbery threat.
- Use grated onions in your mixture for added moisture. Onions are mostly water and flavor, and that’s what you want inside your balls. Pun intended.
Take a look…
Here is the other difference you will notice in Moroccan meatballs: they contain a lot more herbs and spices than usual. You have your usual paprika, cumin, chopped parsley, and of course the most recognizable Moroccan spice blend: Ras Al Hanout.
Say that 10 times faster: Ras Al Hanout, Ras Al Hanout, Ras Al Hanout Ras Al Hanout Ras Al Hanout Ras Al Hanout Ras Al Hanout Ras Al Hanout Ras Al Hanout …
It is the most ridiculous name for a spice mix, it literally translates to: The head of the store.
How to make Moroccan Meatballs
The first is kind of an obvious one, shape your meatballs! Once that’s done, heat up a skillet to medium-high heat and sear your meatballs until you get a nice color brown color on them. The purpose of this is to lock up the flavor inside and help your meatballs stay moist.
Remove your meatballs and add to the same skillet your onions, coriander and preserved lemon. Cook for 5-7 minute over medium heat.
Add your seared meatballs back to the pan and cover with marinara sauce. Lower the heat and let simmer for a good 15 minutes. Top with coriander and some pitted green olives of your choice.
That’s all there is to it and if you’re wondering, what can I eat these with? You can enjoy them over your favorite long pasta. You can also have them over couscous. Or you can do it the classic Moroccan way, eat them with bread.
However, if you are trying to limit your carbs intake, there is nothing wrong with going at it with a spoon. That’s what I did.
These are not your average meatballs. Moroccan meatballs are tangy, citrusy and are a welcome addition to any carb of your choice.
- 1 to 1.5 lbs ground beef (15% fat)
- 1 small onion
- 1 cup tomato sauce use half if you want a much lower carb count
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ras al hanout see notes
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander plus more to garnish
- 1/2 preserved lemon roughly chopped
Start by chopping your parsley and garlic. In a food processor, chop your onion very thinly. If you don't have a food processor you can just use a box grater.
In a bowl, mix your ground beef, spices, salt, pepper, 2/3 of the chopped coriander, onions. Shape your mix into meatballs.
Add about a Tbsp of olive oil to your pan and warm it up for about 2 minutes on medium-high heat. Sear your meatballs on each side for about 2-3 minutes and remove off the pan.
Lower the heat to medium. To the same pan, add your minced onion, garlic, and half preserved lemon and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Place your meatballs in the pan and top with your marinara. At this point, I like to take a spoon and just cover the meatballs with sauce to make sure they don't dry up while they are cooking. Lower the heat and let simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Once the sauce thickens up (the meat will release it's fat in the sauce), your meatballs will be ready. Top with some pitted olives and freshly chopped coriander. Enjoy!
Rass al Hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that you can get in ethnic grocery stores. If you wanna DIY it, I got you covered :
This will make about 2-3 Tablespoons. I would recommend making a big batch and storing in a mason jar.
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
Some recipes call for all spice. It’s all up to you if you want to add it.