- 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
- 3 tablespoons chopped blanched almonds
- 3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
- 5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 2/3 cups crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 15-ounce can)
- In a medium bowl, combine the lamb, almonds, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the mint, the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.
- In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all over, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
- In a large deep frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
- Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer, covered, until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons mint.
Thanks to its warm cumin spiciness, refreshing herbal taste of mint, acidic tomatoes, and meaty lamb, this dish is a challenge to wine. A medium-bodied red that has crisp acidity, not too much tannin, and flavor that isn't too assertive is the best bet. Spain's famous Rioja is just such a wine; if possible, try an older one, indicated by the words reserva or gran reserva on the label.