Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Lamb and Parmesan Meatballs in Red Wine Marinara

I love meatballs—beef, lamb, chicken, or turkey. For this recipe, I went with mildly gamey, very savory ground lamb.

But texture is just as important as flavor when it comes to these delectable, meaty little balls. A beaten egg helps add moisture, but I think the real key to moist, tender meatballs is white bread soaked in milk. It’s a little extra step that makes a big difference in the finished dish.

Usually, I use regular milk for soaking the bread pieces, but this time I had some evaporated milk on hand so I used that. The texture and taste of evaporated milk adds a bit of silkiness and creaminess on its own. Tip: Don’t squeeze the bread too dry before adding it to the lamb mixture—let some of that evaporated milk get into the mix as well.

The marinara here is a simple combination of crushed tomatoes and red wine, with sautéed garlic and onion, making a rich, earthy, tomato-y base for the meatballs.

Note: Pair the meatballs with whatever you like—pasta, rice, egg noodles, creamy polenta, even mashed potatoes. The big flavor here is in the meat and marinara.


For the Meatballs
  • 1/2 cup small, torn pieces soft white bread
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
For the Marinara
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • cooked pasta, rice, polenta, or your choice for serving

For the Meatballs
  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the bread cubes in a small bowl and pour the evaporated milk over them. Press the bread down to submerge and let soak 15 minutes.
  3. Combine the lamb, garlic, shallot, cheese, egg, and 1 tablespoon parsley in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove the bread from the milk, gently squeezing to remove excess. (Don’t squeeze too hard—leave a little milk clinging to the bread.) Add to the bowl with the lamb mixture and mix lightly to combine all.
Torn Bread Pieces
Bread in Evaporated Milk
Meatball Mixture
Soaked Bread Added
  1. Divide the meat mixture in 12 1-1/2-inch-diameter balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  2. Bake until tender and just cooked through, 18-20 minutes, turning halfway through.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley and meatballs to the marinara (recipe follows) turning and stirring to coat well.
Serve the meatballs and marinara over pasta, rice, polenta, or whatever you choose.

Rolled Meatballs

Halfway Through
Lamb and Parmesan Meatballs in Red Wine Marinara
For the Marinara
  1. Heat a heavy, preferably cast-iron, skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes and wine and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a light simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover and cook until slightly thickened, 10 minutes
Onion and Garlic
Thickened Marinara

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