Moroccan Meatballs with Arugula Salad

“In the fall of 2022, I was looking to use up the basil in my garden before winter took it away. I was hoping to find something to use it in other than pesto and found this recipe. What’s great about this is it uses so many of the fresh herbs I grow in my garden, plus my cherry tomatoes! This is also my first foray into cooking lamb. It is a really nice, lighter option for meatballs instead of using beef. Too bad it is so expensive! This is a bit of work and a bit of a splurge, but it is super tasty and an impressive dish to serve for company.” – April Ferre

Moroccan Meatballs with Arugula Salad

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean


For Meatballs:

  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 1/2 8-Inch Whole Wheat Pitas Diced into 1/-2-Inch Pieces
  • 1 Cup Fresh Parsley Minced
  • 3/4 Cup Fresh Mint Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano Minced
  • 2 Large Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 2 Pounds Ground Lamb

For Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 3 Large Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 28- Ounce Can Whole Italian Peeled Tomatoes Crushed
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Harissa Or To Taste
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste

For Aioli-Yogurt Sauce:

  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 4 Large Cloves Garlic Pressed or Finely Minced
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3/4 Cup Greek Yogurt

For Salad:

  • 8 Cups Baby Arugula
  • 16 Cherry Tomatoes Halved
  • Moroccan Carrot Salad Optional

For Topping:

  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley Chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Fresh Basil Chiffonade


Make the meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  • Combine milk and pita in a stand mixer bowl; let stand until bread is soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add parsley, mint, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Beat until well mixed and pita bread is evenly dispersed in the mixture.
  • Add ground lamb and mix well until evenly combined.
  • Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place in an oven-safe baking dish. If mixture is too hard to handle, refrigerate briefly.
  • Place meatballs in the oven on the top rack and brown, turning meatballs as necessary.

Make the tomato sauce:

  • While meatballs are browning, heat olive in a large Dutch oven. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, harissa, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
  • If the sauce is overly acidic and brown sugar as necessary to mellow out the sauce.
  • Bring sauce to a simmer and reduce for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • When meatballs have finished browning, add to tomato sauce and continue to simmer until meatballs are tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Prepare the aioli-yogurt sauce:

  • Add egg yolks, garlic and salt to a blender container. Pulse briefly to mix well.
  • With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil until the aioli is emulsified, increasing the speed as you go.
  • Stop the motor and add in lemon juice, Continue to blend until lemon juice is incorporated.
  • Add yogurt and blend again on low speed until well combined.

Assemble the dish:

  • In a large casserole dish or individual bowls, place arugula, cherry tomatoes and Moroccan carrot salad, if desired.
  • Spoon over meatballs and tomato sauce.
  • Drizzle meatballs with aioli-yogurt sauce and top with fresh parsley and basil.
  • Serve immediately. Makes approximately 35 to 40 meatballs.

Sandwich variation:

  • This dish can easily be assembled inside a pita pocket for a tasty sandwich!

2022 Adapted Recipe – April Ferre – Adapted from Saveur, 2014.

Related Recipes:
Moroccan Meatball Sandwich