Are they Turkish? Are they Greek? North African? Sicilian? Who knows?! These particular meatballs are my own creation, and the combination of lamb, mint, parsley, onion, garlic and pine nuts would probably be at home anywhere in the Mediterranean.
They're really simple to prepare, as you don't brown them; you just drop them into a quick tomato sauce and let them simmer half an hour. That easy braise lets the meatballs stay tender, and it also lets the flavors of the lamb and the tomato sauce mingle deliciously.
Sound good? Place all your ingredients in a bowl: ground lamb, bread crumbs, a couple beaten eggs, grated Parm (or Pecorino Romano, if you like), garlic, chopped parsley, dried spearmint, toasted pine nuts, salt and Aleppo pepper. Stir them together till they're well combined, but try not to overwork the mixture, so it stays light.
Now grab a baking sheet or a platter, and form the mixture into meatballs. At this point, you can cover them with plastic film and stick 'em in the fridge if you want to cook them later. Or make them now, and you'll be eating in 45 minutes.
Next make a quick tomato sauce. Heat olive oil in a skillet, add chopped onions, a smashed garlic clove and a few sprigs of thyme, cook till the onion's soft, pull out the garlic and thyme, then add a can of chopped tomatoes, a little red wine and water, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Let it simmer about 10 minutes, then drop in the meatballs. Cook them covered, shaking them now and then or turning them over, for half an hour.
They smell so good I find it hard not to pull one out before they're done and taste it. You know, just to make sure it's OK. (No one can tell you not to do this – it's your kitchen and you're the boss!)
So, how are you going to serve them – on couscous? We felt very Moroccan the night I did that. They're also great on pasta (yes, I know – couscous is pasta, but you know what I mean), or mashed potatoes. Or a soft polenta.
Or you could serve them as an hors d'oeuvre. Just set them out in a bowl and spear them with toothpicks. Have you been dreaming of a trip to Istanbul, or Izmir, or Athens?
You're already there.