Party Meatballs

Bet you can't eat just one.

Bet you can’t eat just one.


What’s a party without meatballs?

Kind of like watching a movie without popcorn. Or celebrating a birthday without cake. Or ending a day of skiing without a cup of hot cocoa.

Just not the same, right?

“Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs” have party written all over them.

The recipe is from “The Washington Post Cookbook” (Time Capsule Press) edited by Bonnie S. Benwick. The book, of which I received a review copy, is a compilation of favorite recipes published over the past 50 years in the pages of the award-winning newspaper’s food section.


These highly seasoned meatballs taste exactly like falafel — except they’re made with meat and you don’t have to fry them.

The recipe indicates you can use lamb, chicken or even fish. I went with ground turkey, which worked just great.

The meatballs get a sticky, fruity, sweet-sour glaze of pomegranate molasses, honey and pepper flakes.

The final touch is a festive sprinkling of jewel-like pomegranate seeds and green pistachios. They add a nice element of crunch and color to the fluffy, moist meatballs.

Even if you’re not having a party, these make a great entree, too. Just serve them mounded over regular couscous or Israeli couscous cooked with shallots, stock and a pinch of saffron.

That’s pretty festive, too.

Perfect for a cocktail party nosh. Or even as an entree.

Perfect for a cocktail party nosh. Or even as an entree.

Pistachio and Pomegranate Meatballs

(Makes 30 to 45 meatballs)

For the meatballs:

1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters

1 1/2 cups shelled, roasted, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish (may substitute shelled hazelnuts)

1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs

1 1/2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (1 large bunch)

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon (1 small bunch)

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons salt

2 pounds lean ground lamb (can substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs or fish fillets) or ground turkey

1 large egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil, melted unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter)

Basil or mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

For the glaze:

3/4 cup pomegranate molasses, such as Sadaf brand

1/4 cup honey (may substitute molasses)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Make ahead: The meatball mixture needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

To make the meatballs: Combine onion, pistachios, breadcrumbs, parsley, tarragon, lime juice, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, cumin, and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to form a grainy paste. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add the ground lamb and egg. Use clean, damp hands to knead the mixture for a few minutes, being careful not to over-mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Use the oil or butter or ghee to grease a wide, nonreactive (not aluminum) baking dish.

Shape meatball mixture into 3o to 45 bite-size balls (about 1 1/2 teaspoons each). Place meatballs in the baking dish and turn them to coat with the oil. leaving space in between. Bake for 10 minutes; the meatballs might look a little pink.

To make the glaze: Meanwhile, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, honey, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes in a mixing bowl. Taste the glaze and be sure that it has a good balance between sweet and sour. Add honey if the pomegranate molasses you have used is too sour.

Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Pour the glaze evenly over the meatballs. Bake for 5 minutes to infuse them with the flavor of the pomegranate. Taste the glaze again; add honey or pomegranate molasses as needed to balance the flavors. The meatballs should be cooked through. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees to keep the meatballs warm until ready to serve.

Transfer glazed meatballs and their pan juices to a deep serving dish. Garnish with chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds, and sprigs of basil or mint, if desired.

Adapted from “Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, 25th Anniversary Edition by Najmieh Batmanglij, as published in “The Washington Post Cookbook”


Another Pomegranate Recipe to Try: Turkish Pomegranate-Glazed Lamb Shoulder Chops and Carrots


More Meatballs to Love: Monday Meatballs from A16

Kokkari meat balls

And: Spiced Meatballs with Green Olive and Tomato Sauce from Kokkari


And: Ziti with Sausage Meatballs


And: Bouillabaisse Balls

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