We’re back! Disney World was a ton of fun, and now I’m in clean-up mode. Unpacking from a trip may top my list of undesirable activities. I spent the morning tackling the pile we unloaded from the car. It really didn’t seem like we took THAT much stuff, but I guess we did. The last batch of clothes are in the washer, and I think I’ve managed to unpack all of the little, random bags we came home with. So, now…I can finally get back to the blog!
I made this for dinner before we left on our trip and it was a huge hit around our house! It’s a delicious Greek twist on traditional spaghetti and meatballs, so it feels a bit more summery. Also, it seems like there are a lot of steps, but it’s a really simple meal to throw together.
I started by mixing up my dressing and prepping my garnish. Anyone who dabbles in Greek cooking, or Greek street-food eating, knows that most everything can be made even more delicious by topping it with some creamy, cool Tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki is, traditionally, a yogurt based sauce with cucumbers, lemon, garlic, and spices. This sauce changed things up a bit and called for plain yogurt, feta cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. The cucumber would be used as a garnish, and before I juiced my lemons, I zested them, so I could use the zest for even more garnish later. So, it’s all of the same flavors as a traditional Tzatziki sauce, just kind of deconstructed.
Once the sauce was mixed together, I popped it into the fridge so the flavors could mix while I was getting the rest of the meal prepped.
Next, it was onto the meatballs. I stirred together a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs, crumbled feta cheese, fresh chopped parsley, a couple of minced green onions, salt, oregano, and eggs in a bowl.
This flavorful mixture would serve as the binding to hold my meatballs together. Once it was well combined, I mixed in the ground beef with my hands. I’ve tried to make meatballs cleanly in the past, but there really isn’t a better way to mix them than with your own two hands. After I had mixed the meat in, I shaped the mixture into 2-inch meatballs and set them aside on a plate.
Once the meatballs were prepped, I heated some olive oil up in a large pan on the stove and browned up the meatballs quickly on each side, just about 5 minutes total.
Once they were all browned up, I removed them from the pan and kept them warm by covering the plate with some foil.
To the oil in the pan, I added some minced garlic and a dash of red pepper flakes. After about a minute, I added 2 large cans of whole tomatoes. I brought this mixture to a simmer, lowered the heat a bit, and let the sauce cook for about 5 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with my spoon as it cooked.
After the sauce had cooked for a few minutes, I added some salt and pepper, and then I used my immersion blender to puree the sauce. The pan wasn’t too deep, so I had to be careful not to splatter tomato sauce all over my kitchen! It worked well, though, and saved me from hauling out my blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor or regular blender and puree the sauce in batches before returning it to the pan.
Once the sauce was blended, I added some halved Kalamata olives to the sauce and returned the meatballs to the pan. I brought the sauce back up to a simmer, lowered the heat a bit, and let the meatballs simmer for about 10 minutes to finish cooking them through.
(They’re in there. I swear.)
While the meatballs were simmering away in the sauce, I made my couscous. This recipe calls for Israeli (or pearl) couscous. It’s larger in size than regular couscous and has a nice, chewy bite to it. It’s perfect for pasta salads or for nice saucy dishes, like this one!
I brought some chicken broth, lemon juice, butter, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Then, I stirred in my couscous, covered the pan, reduced the heat, and let it simmer away for about 9 minutes. When it was done, I had a delicious side dish that my kids LOVED and would go well with so much more than just these meatballs! My only complaint was that the recipe I used really didn’t make that much of the couscous. From now on, I’ll double the recipe. This recipe allowed for about 1/2 cup of couscous for each of the four of us. I had a lot of leftover sauce, and a few meatballs, and no couscous to have them with the next day! If you’re a fan of leftovers, or feeding more than 2 adults, definitely double the recipe.
Once the couscous was done, I spooned some into a bowl, topped it with that amazing, olive filled tomato sauce, and a couple of the meatballs. Then, I topped it with some of that zesty, cool yogurt sauce, the cucumber, and some extra lemon zest. It was delicious! A real departure from our usual spaghetti dinner, but light enough that it will make the perfect summer substitute. The meatballs had so much flavor, and pairing them with the lemony couscous and Tzatziki flavors was a match made in happy-tummy heaven.
GREEK MEATBALLS WITH LEMON COUSCOUS
Adapted from Cuisine Tonight
- For the sauce and garnish:
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- chopped cucumber
- lemon zest
- For the meatballs and sauce:
- 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp. minced green onions
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 lb. ground chuck
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes (or 6 cups quartered, fresh tomatoes)
- ¾ cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
- For the couscous:
- (This recipe barely made enough for our family of four, so I would double it next time for sure. You may want to as well!)
- ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ cup dry pearl (Israeli) couscous
- Chop up your cucumber and zest your lemons. Chill until dinner is ready. Combine the rest of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Cover the bowl, and chill until ready to use.
- For the meatballs: Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup feta, parsley, green onions, salt, oregano, and beaten egg in a bowl. With your hands, mix in the ground chuck lightly. Shape the mixture into 12 2-inch balls and set aside on a plate.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saute' pan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and brown on each side, about 5 minutes total. Once browned, remove the meatballs from the pan and keep warm.
- For the sauce: Add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes to the oil in the pan and saute' for 1 minute, until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon as they cook. Puree' the tomato mixture in the pan using an immersion blender (carefully!) or puree' the sauce in batches in either a food processor or blender, and return blended sauce to the pan.
- Bring the sauce back up to a simmer, add the olives and carefully stir in the meatballs. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
- For the couscous: Bring the broth, lemon juice, butter, and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the couscous. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes.
- To serve:
- Serve the meatballs and sauce over the Lemon Couscous. Top it with some of the feta dressing, chopped cucumber, and lemon zest.
- Serves 4 (3 meatballs each)