Spicy Calabrian Meatballs

Meatballs are a great way to combine flavors you're not normally used to. Here, I take a North African-inspired meatball and pair it with my Calabrian Red Sauce. The subtle heat from the sauce marries perfectly with the aromatic ginger, cloves, and nutmeg spice mix in the meat.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr 35 min
  • Active: 50 min
  • Yield: 40 to 45 meatballs
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Ingredients

2 pounds (910 grams) ground lamb

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup (40 grams) panko breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/3 cup (80 milliliters) whole milk

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish

4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

4 tablespoons finely chopped scallion

Calabrian Red Sauce, recipe follows

Calabrian Red Sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup (70 grams) chopped shallots

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

One 14.5-ounce (411-gram) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes

1/2 cup (120 milliliters) chicken stock

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 1/2 tablespoons finely minced Calabrian chiles in oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C).
  2. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, eggs, panko, mayonnaise, and milk. Add the garlic, paprika, salt, ginger, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, cloves, coriander and nutmeg. Using your hands, mix well to combine. Add 3 tablespoons each of the parsley, cilantro, and scallion and use your hands to mix for 1 minute to distribute the herbs.
  3. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a small 2-ounce (60 milliliter) cookie scoop, add the meatballs to the pan, leaving a 1-inch (2.5 centimeter) space between them. Bake until the meatballs are lightly browned and the internal temperature reads 155 degrees F (68 degrees C), 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the meatballs with the sauce and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon each of parsley, cilantro, and scallion. Scatter with more parsley and serve immediately. 

Calabrian Red Sauce

Yield: 2 cups (480 milliliters)
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shallots and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and use a potato masher to smooth out any lumps. Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, along with the chicken stock, garlic, chiles (and some of their oil), vinegar, basil, parsley, and black pepper and stir to combine.
  3. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until it reduces slightly, about 20 more minutes. (It will be a thinner sauce.) To prevent scorching, stir the sauce every few minutes. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Cook’s Note

This simple red sauce gets its heat from Calabrian chiles, which are balanced with notes of spice and fruit. Their fiery flavor is why I love using this sauce to make my Spicy Calabrian Meatballs, and it's also great on sandwiches, pastas, or even as a dip. This sauce freezes beautifully, so feel free to make it ahead.