These Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs are slightly salty from the kalamata olives and citrusy from the lemons. Meatballs are one of those foods that everyone enjoys. This recipe is super easy to make on the weekends or during a busy work week.
Why grass-fed lamb matters:
Our family really enjoys the delicate gamey flavor that lamb offers. When it comes to buying lamb, there are a few things to consider. While not all lamb is grass-fed and grass-finished, the majority is. Some farms will grain-finish the animals to increase their fat content and to obtain the classic marbling in the meat that so many chefs seek. We purchase our lamb from our local coop and it is grass-fed and grass-finished. By now you may be asking yourself, "well, why does grass fed matter?"
Grass-fed meat matters because it is healthier for us and for the animal. Grass-fed animals are free to graze enjoying a diet of fresh grasses, have access to fresh air and sunshine. As a result, grass-fed meat is higher in antioxidants and healthy omega-3 fats. A recent article published in Food Science & Nutrition reviews a study conducted in China on 24 lambs over a 6-month period. The study compared pasture grazed lambs to lambs that were fed a diet of corn, soy, and wheat. The study concluded that pasture grazed lambs were higher in antioxidants such as glutathione peroxidase (Bohui et al, 2019). Click here to read the entire study in Food Science & Nutrition.
A couple notes about Mediterranean lamb meatballs:
When making this recipe, try to make them earlier in the day so the meat mixture can sit and marinate for a few hours. It's not necessary as the recipe is already packed with flavor, but I have noticed the flavors pop the longer the mixture can marinate in the refrigerator. I typically make them first thing in the morning and around 4pm, roll them into balls and bake them before my husband gets home from work. They are good on top of a big Greek salad or by themselves served with my tzatziki sauce.
Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs
- 1 pound ground lamb
- ¼ cup red onion
- 15 kalamata olives, pitted
- 1 tbsp garlic
- 1 ½ lemons, zested
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp dried marjoram
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Chop the red onion and garlic. Don't worry about chopping them too fine since the food processor will do that. Pit the kalamata olives and chop. Add the onion, garlic, olives and the remaining ingredients in a food processor. Process until all the ingredients are well combined and in small pieces
- Remove the meatball mixture from the food processor and place in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours to allow the ingredients to marinate
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Scoop about two tablespoons worth of the meatball mixture and roll into a ball. Place on a sheet tray. Continue with the rest of the meatball mixture until it is gone
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are browned and cooked through
- If serving on top of a salad, allow the meatballs to cool slightly. If not, enjoy right away!
Source: Bohui, et al. (2019) Meat quality, fatty acids, volatile compounds, and antioxidant properties of lambs fed pasture versus mixed diet. Food Science & Nutrition. 7(9): 2796–2805. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.1039