Kufteh, a Different Kind of Meatball

August  9, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Copyright © 2022 Graydon Herriott. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Random House.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 55 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

"Supposedly, my first words were 'hum hum,' directed at the kufteh that my mother was tearing up and feeding me as a baby. Every time she tells the story, I feel like was a different dish. The point is, I loved food. Kufteh is Farsi for 'meatballs,' and they are made throughout Iran, in various sizes, like kufteh tabrizi, which are enormous—the size of two human fists—and with various fillings. In that spirit, these are tennis ball–size meatballs stuffed with herbs, rice, and turmeric, which get cooked in a bright, spicy tomato sauce that isn’t very Iranian at all, so I’m breaking tradition." —Reprinted from The Cook You Want To Be. Copyright © 2022 Andy Baraghani, Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Random House. —Food52

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Kufteh, a Different Kind of Meatball
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup cooked long-grain white rice, cooled
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped herbs (a mix of chives, dill, parsley, and/or tarragon), plus more for serving
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 pounds ground beef, lamb, pork, or turkey (feel free to use a combination)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints Sungold or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  1. In a large bowl using a fork, beat the egg. Stir in the rice, herbs, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and turmeric until you have a somewhat evenly combined mixture. Add the ground meat and 1½ teaspoons salt to the bowl. Using your hands like the claw at an arcade game, mix everything until well combined. Gently roll the mixture into meatballs slightly smaller than the size of a tennis ball, but bigger than the meatballs you find at IKEA, placing each kufteh on a large plate as you roll them. You don’t want to pack the mixture super-tight as you roll it; you want to keep the kufteh light.
  2. In a large heavy pot over medium heat, warm the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and stir to coat everything in the oil. Season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion and garlic have become soft and taken on a pale golden color, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook until the tomato paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pot and has slightly darkened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Toss the tomatoes into the pot and cook, using a wooden spoon to stir and scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, until most of the tomatoes begin to burst their skins, 7 to 9 minutes. If the pan looks dry, add a splash of the water to loosen things up. Once most of the tomatoes have broken down, pour in the rest of the water and season with salt. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue cooking until it has slightly reduced but is still quite brothy, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-low and, one at a time, drop the meatballs into the sauce. Cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and simmer, occasionally spooning some sauce over the kufteh (not a must, but it’s what I do), until the kufteh are cooked through and can be broken easily with a fork, 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Ladle meatballs and sauce into bowls or leave in the pot. Serve topped with herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Do Ahead: The meatballs and sauce can be cooked 1 day ahead. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • rcarnold
  • jamie

2 Reviews

rcarnold August 13, 2022
Easy to make, pretty quick and delicious
jamie August 13, 2022
This recipe leaves out the dried apricot in the middle of the meatballs??