Plump, juicy and perfectly spiced with oregano, basil and parsley, these easy Italian lamb meatballs are the perfect dinner tonight. They’re quick to make, they’re oven-baked making them healthier and easier to cook and they are perfect in any tomato sauce you have.
The leaves are starting to turn and fall might actually be here… for real. And I am 100% okay with this. Fall food is my love language. I’ve long been a stew-y, gooey kind of cook who is more at home with things bubbling and baking, rather than grilling and chilling.
It’s not to say I don’t love summer and it’s food. I do. I just really really really love fall and winter cooking. So, let’s just get right down to the business of lamb meatballs in the Italian fashion, and start with the way to make them right and how to serve them like ya mean it.
Italian lamb meatballs with spaghetti are the ultimate comfort food classic. But today I’m going gluten-free and serving these meatballs over sweet and savory spaghetti squash. Because let’s face it, we’re addicted to those sweet strands of goodness.
But what we really need to know are how to make Italian lamb meatballs in a step by step fashion, so here we go.
How to make Italian lamb meatballs
- Start off with a pound of lamb. That will make more than enough meatballs for dinner with a couple left over for lunch the next day.
- Assemble all of your Italian herbs and spices on the counter so you can grab and go. Oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and a little hint of some chili pepper. You can skip chili pepper if you don’t like the spice, but I like that warm feeling it gives to the dish. BTW… you’re looking for dried spices here, not fresh. Dried pack more flavor punch and bind better with the lamb.
- Sweat your onions and garlic to get rid of that bitter taste. My personal preference is to sweat the onions, but I’ve seen recipes that call for grating the onion. This is an easier and quicker way for sure, but it doesn’t get rid of the bitterness that the cooking process does. When onion and garlic are sweated down, they lose their moisture content and the sugars start to cook (without coloring) and the onions and garlic turn very sweet and give you a depth of flavor that grating just never will.
Some optional extras
- Breadcrumbs to bulk everything out a little bit. This is great if you’ve got to get two dinners out of these meatballs. If you go the breadcrumb route be sure to check out the recipe notes.
- Smoked bacon or pancetta. I love adding smoked bacon, but sometimes skip it, if I’m trying to save on the calories or just don’t have any bacon.
- Use half pork and half lamb. The pork adds a flavor and richness that takes these meatballs from delicious to special occasion worthy.
Once your meatballs are ready for the oven a little drizzle of olive oil does the trick.
How to serve Italian lamb meatballs
With a very thick tomato sauce. When added to a rich and hearty sauce these meatballs form a ragu sauce. Slowly simmered tomatoes with basil and some red wine is all that’s needed here.
I should also mention that these meatballs are also perfect when their tossed with the sauce and melted with some cheese. You would definitely want to serve that with crusty Italian bread and a glass of red wine.
But they really do shine when they’re served over pasta or in this case spaghetti squash. So, grab your fork and twirl in 3…2…1…
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Easy Italian Lamb Meatballs
For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1 white onion finely chopped and gently cooked
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped and gently cooked
- 3 rashers of smoked bacon chopped into lardons (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon each dried oregano dried basil
- 1/2 Tablespoon each dried thyme dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes optional
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs optional, see notes
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil for baking
- Salt and Pepper to taste
For the Sauce
- 1 white onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 2 x 14oz tins of chopped tomatoes in juice fire roasted it available
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
- 1/2 bunch fresh oregano chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Spaghetti Squash
- 1 spaghetti squash cut in half lengthwise
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
To make the meatballs
- Heat a high sided skillet or frying pan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan and gently sweat the onions and garlic until they are translucent and soft, but not coloured. Once cooked, spoon the onion and garlic out into a small bowl and set aside to cool. If adding bacon to the meatballs, cook the bacon in the skillet first and set aside, then sauté the onions and garlic in half the bacon fat. Reserve the pan for making the sauce.
- In a large bowl add the lamb, egg, herbs and breadcrumbs (if using) and a splash of milk. *See notes. Mix well, then add the onions and garlic (and bacon if using) and mix again. Roll out the mixture into golfball sized meatballs. Place on a baking tray or in a small roasting dish and drizzle with the olive oil and a sprinkle of thyme. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes. The meatballs will be golden and the juices will run clear when pierced with a fork or knife.
To cook the spaghetti squash
- Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Drizzle with the olive oil and salt and pepper and place on a tray cut side down and roast for 30 minutes while the meatballs cook. Once the squash is cooked, use a fork to scoop the strands from the skin. Season with some more salt and pepper if necessary and a knob of butter.
To Make the Sauce
- Meanwhile make the sauce, use the skillet that you cooked the onions and garlic in, gently sauté the onions and garlic until they’re fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook until the onions are just starting to turn golden, about another 8 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up any golden bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine come to a boil and reduce for about 1 minute.
- Add the tomato paste and the tinned tomatoes. Stir in the fresh herbs and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick and hearty. Add the meatballs and stir to coat them.
Serve over spaghetti squash with some bread and wine.
Notes 1. If you’re using the breadcrumb option, add a splash (1/4 cup) of milk to the mixture to add some extra moisture to the meatballs.