Serves 4

Rick: Though most people really love meatballs, many versions never hit the top of my list. Until I tasted these meatballs, that is. The sauce may look like everyday marinara, but its taste is brightened with the flavors of cumin, parsley and good paprika, which is why I go back for bite after bite. When we learned to make these meatballs (called ketfu in Morocco) with Bouchra in Marrakech, she told us she sometimes cracks eggs into the sauce to poach alongside the meatballs. I haven't tried that yet, but I can just imagine how delicious the sauce would taste with the poached yolk stirred into it. I'm particularly fond of these meatballs made with lamb.

Lanie: This dish is easy to understand: two-bite American ground beef meatballs with exotic flavors. A homey dish gone different. I think they're best in winter - makes you feel all warm inside. The only trick to making them is knowing when the sauce is smooth enough - should be almost completely smooth…but not quite. If you want these to be your whole meal, you'll need to add rice or pasta. Or couscous -- !! -- to give an authentic touch (though I never saw them serve couscous with meatballs in Morocco).

  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef or lamb
  • 3 teaspoons paprika, divided use (Moroccan paprika is medium-hot - add a little cayenne if your isn't hot enough for you)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided use
  • 12 large fresh parsley sprigs, divided use
  • Salt
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 small onion

1. Make meatballs.Place beef or lamb in a large bowl. Measure in 1-1/2 teaspoons of the paprika, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, half of the chopped parsley and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix or knead to thoroughly distribute flavorings through meat. Roll meat into 1-inch balls (about 1 tablespoon meat mixture), laying each on a plate as rolled. Set aside.

2. Make sauce. Turn on food processor. Drop garlic through feed tube. Let machine run until garlic is chopped, then stop. Remove lid and scrape down garlic from sides of processor. Add tomatoes, olive oil, tomato paste and onion. Add remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon cumin and parsley. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process until nearly smooth. Scrape into pan or deep skillet that is about 10 inches across (size is important here). Set over medium heat, bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Cook meatballs and serve. Remove pan from heat. Nestle meatballs into sauce in a single layer. Swirl pan gently to ensure all meatballs have sauce over the top. Set over medium heat, set lid slightly ajar and cook 10 to 12 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. Taste and stir in more salt if you think necessary. If sauce is very thick, add a little water. Spoon onto individual plates and serve.

Excerpted from Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures: Recipes and Stories by Rick Bayless, Deann Groen Bayless and Lanie Bayless (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, October 2004). © 2004 by Rick Bayless.