Roasted beef meatballs and cherry tomatoes are one of the best meatballs in the history of all meatballs ever! It is a ridiculously easy meatball recipe. It is very tender, super awesome with an intriguing flavor from cinnamon and nutmeg and is simply enjoyed with this bursting lycopene-laden cherry tomatoes.
Meatballs are usually associated with Italian cooking, although it varies from country to country. Most people enjoy a heaping plate of spaghetti drowned with marinara sauce and topped with large meatballs, others eat it with flavourful rice pilaf while some, like the Italians, serve meatballs as a stand-alone or with slightly sauteed vegetables or even fries. But here, right in my kitchen, there's no tradition because we are suckers for everything good.
This recipe was inspired by Lior Lev Srcarz's book, Mastering spice, 2017, Oven-roasted meatballs. I fell in love with the idea of being in Italy and with a few pinches of Arab and Indian spices added, suddenly you're savouring a middle eastern taste and flavour.
This beef meatball recipe, for the same reason as this Chicken meatball soup with herb pesto on this site, is meant for ease and delicious meal. Not only... but also pairs well with this Healthy garlic scape recipe for a substantial dinner. And if you're like my family and I who were haunted by nightmares when trying to skip dessert, then welcome to our world. A good serving of this chewy-fudgy chocolate brownie for dessert is soo divine that it will follow you with a smile until you doze off.
Ingredients you will need
This Homemade beef meatballs recipe uses the classic Italian sausage seasoning fennel seeds, oregano and garlic; and then, combined with Middle Eastern influences such as yogurt, cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg for an intriguing flavour but in a good way.
See the recipe card for the exact measurement.
- Garlic is the core seasoning and one of the most popular seasonings in the world. Its intense earthiness, as well as its sulfuric flavor and aroma, bring the umami quality of these meatballs.
- Onion can be added fresh, grated or minced or diced and then sautèed.
- Oregano is strong robust and peppery with lemony notes used in Italian food. It brings intense, woodsy pine notes to the meatballs. You can use dried or fresh oregano but dried is probably your best bet, given the fact that fresh will cost you more while dried is easily available.
- Fennel seeds are a slightly sweet, warm and licorice-like taste (anise seed flavor) which is featured predominantly in Italian cuisine and is commonly added in Italian sausages and meatballs.
- Coriander is a well-loved spice when it comes to curry, its peppery bite and bright citrus notes will lighten up the sweetness of fennel seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Nutmeg smells sweet, rich, fresh and warm aroma that goes well with fennel and oregano.
- Cinnamon is not only for pastries. It is a highly aromatic and warm spice that gives the meatballs an even bracing quality.
- Chilli flakes to add extra heat and flavor.
- Yogurt, plain - for moisture, add richness and a little tang (this is optional, use milk or buttermilk)
- Eggs are used as a binder
- Bread crumbs absorb the juices from the meat as it cooks trapping them within the meatballs, stopping them from getting dry.
- Salt and pepper, meatballs need salt, period! Unless it is really necessary to remove it.
- Ground beef
- Cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil
Now you came this far where the do's and don't exist. It is a simple process but this beef meatball recipe asks for your gentleness, a little patience and your willingness to work with your hand.
So, let's begin.
→Grind the fennel seeds using this pestle and mortar or use a spice grinder or anything you have, and then add the rest of the spices.
→ Must have heard or read that to get the most of your spices, is to let it bloom; in other words, add the onions and some of the spice blend and gently cook over medium-low heat stirring once in a while until the onions mellow and smells like buttery aroma as it mingles with spice's fragrance and wafts at the tip of your nose.
→ Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using your bare hands, mix into the ground meat just to combine. The light touch of your hands incorporates all the ingredients without crushing the meat.
→ Lightly oil your hands so that the meat mixture will not stick to your skin. Equally, portion the meat, either by weighing or just an eyeball, whatever works for you works with me too. Place the portioned meat into your palm, and place your other hand using your fingertips on top; then, gently and lightly roll to form a ball. Don't roll too tight!
→ Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and then arrange the meatballs leaving a little space in between.
→ Scatter the cherry tomatoes allowing them to drop in between the meatballs.
→ Place the skillet into the preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes. Change the program of your oven to broil and then broil for another 5 minutes or until the top of the meatballs turned deep brown and the cherry tomatoes burst and blistered.
Hint: Ovens don't have the same temperature. So please, once you turned on your broil don't go anywhere. Either your oven can burn your meatballs and cherry tomatoes in just a blink of an eye, or you might need to extend for a few more minutes.
When ground beef is not available, ground turkey, ground pork, ground lamb, ground veal or a combination of beef and pork or beef and veal will all work.
In place of yogurt, some add milk or water to their meatballs but I prefer buttermilk for a better flavour.
How to make buttermilk?
What if you don't have yogurt on hand in order to make this beef meatball recipe but you have milk and distilled vinegar or lemon juice? Hurray, now you can make your own buttermilk. Measure a cup of milk (low fat or full fat, your choice) and then remove a tablespoon of milk and replace it with a tablespoon of distilled vinegar or lemon juice. Shake or stir well to combine and let it sit for a few minutes before using. Use the same amount as what is asked for yogurt.
Another reason to love this roasted meatballs and cherry tomato recipe is the method of cooking. All you need is a large mixing bowl, an ovenproof/broiler-proof skillet or baking dish, pestle and mortar, spice grinder or simple knife and chopping board to crush the fennel seeds. No fancy equipment is needed.
Make the meatballs a day in advance, stored in the fridge to be roasted for the next day.
Though the ingredients list looks long, this is a simple and impressive dish to make.
Herbs and spices are important, without them, they will taste like a plain burger.
I really like the cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg in these meatballs. To hell, if it doesn't work but with just a few amounts added, it works its wonder. I don't know what it is but something about the warm and sweet flavour profile of these spices just mingles well with any meat and herbs. And the addition of yogurt makes the meatballs tender, moist, and tasty.
Beef meatballs and cherry tomatoes in the oven
- heavy duty, ovenproof and broiler proof frying pan or baking dish
- 300 grams cherry tomatoes + 2 tablespoon olive oil to coat
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
- 2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 ½ teaspoona sea salt, ½ teaspoon separated
- 1 ½ pounda ground beef
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ½ cup plain thick yogurt
- 1 large egg + 1 yolk, lightly beaten
- Position the oven rack at the second upper shelf and then, preheat the oven to 400℉.
- Crush the fennel seeds using a spice grinder, pestle and mortar or simply place the fennel seeds on a chopping board and gently rock and roll using your knife until finely crushed. Combine with the rest of the spices.
Make the meatballs
- Place the yogurt, egg and 1 yolk in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-low heat. Once heated, add the onion, a teaspoon of the spice blend, ½ teaspoon of salt and cook while stirring once in a while until the onion is translucent for about 3 minutes. Immediately, transfer the cooked onion to a bowl to cool completely.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, bread crumbs, yogurt, eggs, the remaining salt, the remaining spice blend and the cooled onion. Mix with your hands until just combined, avoid over mixing.
- Divide the meat mixture into 16 portions and gently shape it into a ball. Coat the skillet with two tablespoons of olive oil and arrange the meatballs in a single layer. Scatter the tomatoes all around letting them fall in between the meatballs.
- Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Then turn on the broiler to high and roast until the meatballs are browned and the tomatoes got blistered for about 5 minutes. Serve hot with your favorite side dish.
Still, wondering what to serve with?
Spaghetti pasta smothered with a lot of butter and a good squeeze of lemon juice top, with roasted beef meatballs and charred, burst cherry tomatoes are already a meal that guarantees content.