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Course: main course
Total time: under 1 hour
Skill level: Easy
Cost: Inexpensive
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
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Meatball dishes such as keftes are a tradition all over the Middle East. Some regions use turmeric and others use sumac or lemon and mint as flavoring accents for similar meatballs. Aleppian Jews like to use a combination of tomato sauce and tamarind, the proportions of which can vary according to a family’s preference.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons matzoh meal
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • One 6-ounce can tomato paste, or two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ouc (tamarind concentrate), homemade or store-bought (see Notes)
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. To make the meatballs, combine the beef, eggs, matzoh meal, salt, and Aleppo pepper. Mix well by hand. The mixture should be loose and moist so that it can best absorb the sauce and sustain a velvety texture. Shape the meat mixture into walnut-size balls.

2. To make the sauce, combine the tomato paste, one, lemon juice, salt, 1 cup water, and, if desired, sugar. Mix well.

3. In a large ovenproof saucepan, brown the meatballs, one batch at a time, in the oil over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per batch.

4. Return all the meatballs to the saucepan. Pour the sauce over the meatballs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes to thicken sauce and allow the flavors to integrate thoroughly.


For a tangier sauce, increase the ouc by 1½ teaspoons and increase the water by ½ cup. Or omit the ouc altogether for a lighter, more refreshing sauce, especially if you are serving another dish with ouc.

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Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving

This recipe serves 10.

239kcal (12%)
572mg (24%)
12g (18%)
3g (17%)
94mg (31%)
100mcg RAE (3%)
22mg (37%)
53mg (5%)
4mg (24%)