Mediterranean Meatballs with Spinach/ Basil Pesto

Every culture has their version of the beloved meatball.  This particular recipe combines classic Mediterranean ingredients and rolls them into a lovely meat package that can be served as a main course or an appetizer simply by changing the size.  The pesto makes a delicious topping or dip.  If there is any pesto leftover just boil some pasta, thin it with some of the cooking water and you have yet another dish.  How versatile is that?  With the holidays fast approaching we are all in need of new ideas for an hors d’oeuvre and it never hurts to have a quick and easy meal or two up our sleeve for when visitors arrive.  So put these ideas in your back pocket, sit back and enjoy the festivities.

I discovered this recipe in “The Meatball Shop Cookbook”where the authors, Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow state, “Meatballs are the ultimate cure-all for anything that ails you – hangover, breakup, lack of sleep, even a crying baby.”  I am not sure if all those claims are true but I must say, I have never met anyone who didn’t love a great meatball, myself included.

It goes down like this.


Meatballs:              Makes 2 1/2 dz. (1 1/2-inch balls) or 8 dz. mini

2 T olive oil

2 lbs. ground lamb, you could substitute beef

3 large eggs

1 c dark raisins, chopped

1/2 c walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 c fresh mint, chopped

1/2 c breadcrumbs (I use crumbs made from day old bread)

2 t salt

1 t freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Drizzle olive oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and coat the entire surface.  Set aside.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients and mix together by hand until well incorporated.
  3. Gently roll mixture into golf ball size meatballs, about 1  1/2-inch each.  I use a large scoop for the meal size balls and a small scoop for the appetizer size.
  4. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish being careful to line the up snugly and in even rows to form a grid.  The meatballs should be touching each other.
  5. Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the balls reach and internal temp of 165 degrees.
  6. Allow them to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with Spinach/Basil Pesto dolloped on each or on the side for dipping.  If desired, serve with couscous and a steamed vegetable such as, broccolini.

Spinach/Basil Pesto:                       Makes 1 1/2 c

1/4 c roughly chopped walnuts, toasted

4 c baby spinach

2 c fresh basil leaves

1 t salt, or to taste

1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
  2.  Dump the spinach and basil leaves into the boiling water and stir.  After 1 minute, drain the greens and plunge them in the ice water.  Drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Chop the greens roughly.
  4. Combine the greens with salt, olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

This can be served as above or thinned and used as a pasta sauce.  It is also good as a condiment on sandwiches or mixed into an omelet or scrambled eggs.

These will get eaten up quickly.  The sweetness of the raisins paired with the crunch of the walnuts makes a perfect marriage.  I especially love serving these in mini form as an appetizer.  Put them on a platter topped with the pesto and all you need is a toothpick for the perfect bite.  You can’t go wrong.

I want to know how you served them.  I’ll bet you didn’t have to worry about leftovers.




2 responses to “Mediterranean Meatballs with Spinach/ Basil Pesto

  1. Michael and I made your meatballs and pesto last night with a salad. They were delish!!! Your recipes have become the inspirations for lots of our cooking lately. Thank you thank you thank you ❤

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