Mini Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Tahini Sauce

IMG_8073 Did you ever notice when someone brings meatballs to a party they are always a favorite.  Whether they are Italian, Swedish or the Spanish albondigas, they disappear in a flash.  Thinking of the fast approaching holiday season I decided to develop a twist on this popular classic.  I am always in search of something different to serve and eat so I love to take an old standard and give it an unexpected bump of flavor.

As most of my recipe creations, I start with what I have on hand.  Since I have friends who raise pastured sheep living five miles from me, I am fortunate to always have a supply of lamb in the freezer.  If you are not so fortunate or do not like lamb (what?), you can substitute beef or turkey.  Using that as the base, I added Mediterranean spices cinnamon and cumin and fresh herbs, mint, and flat leaf parsley.  For texture and a nutty flavor, I toasted some pine nuts and threw them in the mix.  The result was a bite of freshness bursting with flavor and crunch.

To enhance the meatball experience I paired it with one of my all time favorites, Tahini Sauce.  As its name indicates, it is made with tahini (ta-HEE-nee), a thick paste made of ground sesame seed.  It has been used as a base for dishes such as hummus and baba ghanoush for many years but has gained popularity for use in salad dressings and sauce for falafel and other street food.

Here is how it goes down.IMG_8058


Makes 5 dz. small size

Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis


2 lbs. ground lamb or beef

¾ c pine nuts, toasted

¼ c fresh mint, finely chopped

¼ c fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

2 t ground cinnamon

½ t ground cumin

2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced

½ c onion, finely chopped (1/2 c)

1T sea salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a baking pan (11×13 inch) by coating the inside with a small amount of olive oil.
  2. Put the meat, nuts, mint, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss together with a fork until fully incorporated.
  3. Using a small scoop, form them into balls and place in baking pan so they are touching each other.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until meatballs are firm and cooked through (165 degree internal temp)
  5. Remove from oven and allow to rest in baking pan for 5 minutes.

Serve with tahini sauce.

Tahini Sauce

½ c roasted tahini sauce (sesame paste)

Juice of one large lemon

1 garlic clove, pressed or grated on micro-plane

1T fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

1T fresh mint, chopped fine

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Sea salt to taste

Warm water to thin if needed

  1. Mix tahini with ½ of the lemon juice and remaining ingredients.
  2. Add additional lemon juice to taste. If consistency is too thick, thin with warm water or additional lemon juice.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Note:  You want the sauce to be thin enough to pour or run off when lifted with a spoon but not too liquid.IMG_8066

The beauty of these bite-sized delights is they can be served in a pita as a sandwich with cucumber, tomato and lettuce and a drizzle of sauce, great for lunch or dinner, or served as an appetizer with the sauce as a dipper.  They carry well and need not be served hot.  They are delicious at room temperature making them a perfect addition to any party.  Short on time?  Make ahead!  You can completely make these a couple of days in advance, cover and store in the refrigerator, and just warm them a bit before serving.


I think you will agree, this recipe is a keeper.  Crunchy, fresh and full of spicy warmth, your family and party guests are sure to be feeling it when you serve these small flavor bombs.  Until next time, I would love to hear how you are spreading the love at your house, one dish at a time.  A bite-sized bit of love is flowing from my kitchen to yours.  Always, Jeanne



7 responses to “Mini Meatballs with Pine Nuts and Tahini Sauce

  1. Patti Bendoritis

    This recipe sounds wonderful Jeanne…..just wonderful 🙂

  2. Elizabeth Palmer

    Mouth watering! I will have to try these. We often do a Tapas-like meal on Christmas Eve; these would be great!

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth. I was going to mention these would be perfect for a tapas meal. Hope you like them. I cannot believe it is almost November and we are already thinking of the holidays. Enjoy this beautiful weather! Jeanne

  4. Ground lamb? Pine nuts? What an interesting twist on the oh so common meatball. Was wondering what appitizer I would take to our wine tasting social next week…now I know!!!
    A special thank you to your friend, Elizabeth, for the wonderful idea of a tapas dinner on Christmas Eve. We traditionally do lasagne. However, our daughter Kristin, a true traditionalist, will be here. Not sure she can handle the change!!! lol 😃😃😃
    Please keep those wonderful holiday ideas rolling, one heartfelt dish at a time 😘

    • Hi Kathy: I really think you will like this twist on the classic meatball. I too love the idea of tapas night on Christmas eve. I might do that myself this year. I know how it is with “traditionalists” I always want to mix it up and have lasagna or something Italian for Thanksgiving but get out voted by the turkey lovers. I am also doing two other appetizers for the holidays, blue cheese crackers with fig jam and baked brie in filo cups with bourbon bacon jam. I will post both on my blog soon, Hope all is well with you. Jeanne

  5. Pingback: Quinoa Salad with Lime Vinaigrette | Queen Jeanne's Cuisine

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