Moroccan Meatballs from Tia Sarita

It’s the combination of Moroccan spices that makes this recipe so interesting. My Aunt Sarita uses two kinds of paprika here: Hungarian, with a sweet taste and a vibrant red color, and smoked Spanish (where peppers are smoked over an oak fire), with a richer taste and a darker red.

Serves 4-6

For the Meatballs:

1 lb. (454g) ground beef

1 egg yolk

1 slice whole wheat bread, crust removed (about 32g) and cubed

1 onion, minced

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. Hungarian paprika

2 tsp. Spanish paprika

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1½ tsp. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Sauce:

3 Tbsp. olive oil

4 small onions, peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

1½ tsp. ground ginger

Pinch saffron

1½ tsp. ground cumin

½ tsp. Hungarian paprika

½ tsp. Spanish paprika

Pinch of ground turmeric

¼ c. fresh chopped parsley

¼ c. fresh chopped cilantro

Juice of half lime (1 Tbsp.)


  1. Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl and combine well with a rubber spatula (or knead the mixture with your hands). Scoop a tiny portion and fry in a small pan to make sure the seasoning is just right. Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2 hours.

  2. Have a small bowl of water nearby, wet your hands, and form ½-inch balls. Reserve on a plate until ready to poach.

  3. In a large deep skillet or broad saucepan over low-medium heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the bay leaf, ginger, saffron, cumin, paprikas, turmeric, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon until spices become fragrant. Add about 1½ cups hot water and bring to a boil.

  4. Add the meatballs and poach them in the sauce

, over low heat, covered, for 20 minutes, checking and stirring halfway through. Add more water if necessary.

  1. Finish with the lime juice, parsley, and cilantro and stir carefully. Transfer to a serving plate with all the sauce.

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