Greek Meatballs in Lemon Sauce is the ideal spring supper — the herbed meatballs are satisfying but light in texture, and the pale yellow sauce is tangy, silky, and utterly luxurious without any cream or butter whatsoever.
I didn’t intend to post this dish today, it jumped the queue and muscled in front of several other very nice recipes, but some of the best have a tendency to do that. I just couldn’t hold it back, even for a few days. Greek meatballs in lemon sauce has been on my list of things to make for a while, and when a reader, Alexandra, emailed me her favorite recipe yesterday I leapt into action. Alexandra was born in Athens, and now lives outside the city of Veria, in northern Greece. She follows TVFGI and thought I would like these…she was right! These meatballs have so much flavor, and a divine tender bite, they almost melt in your mouth.
The amazing texture of these meatballs is due to several factors. For one thing, they’re made with a mix of ground pork and lamb, and ground pork cooks up especially tender, so any time you add it to beef or lamb you will get a lighter texture. This recipe also calls for cooked rice, and it does a wonderful job of lightening the meat mixture. I think it works much better than the classic breadcrumbs we tend to use. The mixture gets a huge amount of flavor from the herbs, especially the fresh mint, and so even before you dip these in the sauce, they’re fabulous.
TIP: I usually mix meatballs and meatloaf with my hands, but this time I used my KitchenAid mixer and now it’s my preferred way to do it. The paddle attachment is just perfect for getting everything incorporated without over-mixing, and it saves so much hand washing! I think it did a better job than I do, because I usually can’t wait to get my hands OUT of the bowl and I don’t always get everything thoroughly mixed.
This recipe is slightly adapted from Herbs in Cooking by Maria and Nikos Psilakis. It’s a gem that I never would have found if Alexandra, hadn’t sent it along, thanks a million Alexandra! She says “It’s so-very-Greek and so-very-traditional! I have done it for many occasions and it works just fine as is. I’ve served it as a starter at a formal dinner at home; also as an appetizer with just one ball swimming in the sauce, and of course as the main meal of the day as comfort food…” I agree.
- 1/2 lb ground lamb
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- heaped 1/2 cup cooked rice
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves ( 1 small 2/3 ounce plastic package)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp onion salt
- 3 eggs
- juice of 2 1/2 - 3 lemons
- pinch of salt
- Put all the meatball ingredients into a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix everything thoroughly, but gently. Don't over mix or compact the meat.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
- Scoop the meat mixture out into 1 1/2 inch sized balls, and roll smooth with your hands. Set on a platter.
- Put about 4 1/2 cups of water in a stock pot with a wide bottom. Bring the water to a boil, then set the meatballs in the water, one by one. Do this carefully, they can be fragile. The water should almost cover the meatballs, but not quite. Turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Don't let the water boil furiously. Do this is stages if you pot is not large enough.
- Remove the cooked meatballs to a fresh platter and keep warm.
- While the meatballs are cooking whisk the eggs well in a medium sized bowl, Whisk in the lemon juice and salt.
- Remove 2 cups of the meatball cooking liquid and strain. While whisking the egg and lemon mixture, ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the eggs to temper them. Then slowly add the rest of the liquid, stirring as you add. Pour the sauce into a clean saucepan and gently cook for a few more minutes, but don't let the sauce come to a boil, or even a simmer.
- Serve the meatballs in shallow bowls on top of the sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley.
- My store was inexplicably out of fresh dill so I used (gasp) dried, and it was fine. I used a heaping tablespoon, maybe a little more.
- Make sure your onions and herbs are nice and finely chopped, I used a processor.
- If you by any chance get a few curdled eggs bits in your sauce, don’t panic, just strain it.
- Leftovers can be reheated gently. The sauce should not come to a boil.