Cook the Book: Curried Meatballs with Tomatoes

Cook the Book: Curried Meatballs with Tomatoes

[Photograph: Caroline Russock]

While browsing the pages of The Heirloom Tomato by Amy Goldman I came across this recipe for Curried Meatballs with Tomatoes and immediately recalled a dish of kofta I'd had a while back. While I could not place where exactly I'd eaten these little Indian spiced meatballs floating in a creamy tomato sauce I did remember that they were incredibly delicious and I knew that I had to try out this recipe.

The recipe starts by putting together a sauce of onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cream, and tomatoes. You could use either fresh plum tomatoes or canned but with tomatoes as fresh and plentiful as they are right now I decided that fresh was the way to go. Once all of the ingredients have a chance to soften the are pureed into a bright and creamy sauce. The meatballs (your choice of lamb or beef) are mixed with cream soaked bread crumbs, more garlic and ginger, garam masala, and a touch of cayenne. Instead of frying like an Italian meatball, these are cooked over a rack in the oven allowing the fat to drip out, making for what I am assuming is a much healthier albeit slightly drier meatball. Once cooked through they are plopped in the sauce, and then served over basmati rice with Goldman's raita, yogurt studded with diced cucumbers.

The meatballs have a great heat from the cayenne and the masala, and the tomato sauce has the ideal mix of acid and cream to balance them. The fresh tomato sauce was really the star of this dish—light, fresh, and perfectly spiced. And the best part is that there was plenty leftover, enough to use as a simmering sauce for vegetables even after all of the meatballs are gone.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Heirloom Tomato to give away this week.

  • Yield:8


  • Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 8 pods green cardamom
  • 2 quarts plum tomatoes, canned or fresh
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • Meatballs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or panko
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala or curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef or lamb
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Raita
  • 3 cups whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups seeded, peeled, and finely diced cucumber
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  1. 1.

    To make the sauce: Heat a small sauté pan over moderate heat; add the coriander and cumin. While gently shaking the pan, toast until you can begin to smell the spices and the cumin takes on a bit of color. Remove from the pan and reserve.

  2. 2.

    In a 3-quart heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook until you can smell both of these ingredients.

  3. 3.

    Add the toasted coriander and cumin seeds, cardamom, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook the sauce over low heat for about 30 minutes.

  4. 4.

    Pass the sauce through a food mill and return it to the cooking pot. Add the cream and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

  5. 5.

    To make the meatballs: Place the bread crumbs or panko in a bowl, add the cream, and let soak for 20 minutes.

  6. 6.

    Heat a small pan and add the garam masala or curry powder. Shake the pan and cook until you can smell the spices. Reserve.

  7. 7.

    In a sauté pan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Cool.

  8. 8.

    Preheat oven to 400°F.

  9. 9.

    Combine the meat, soaked bread crumbs, garlic, ginger, salt, and both peppers. Mix thoroughly. Form the meat mixture into 2-inch balls and place on a racked sheet pan or cookie sheet with sides. Bake until browned, about 20 minutes.

  10. 10.

    Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

  11. 11.

    To make the raita: Combine the yogurt, cucumbers, and salt. Adjust salt, add pepper to taste.

  12. 12.

    Serve the meatballs over basmati rice, topped with a spoonful of raita.