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Israeli ktzitzot (meatballs) in spicy tomato sauce (קציצות)

In Israel the exact ingredients and preparation of ktzizot vary widely, due to the influence of Jewish immigration from different regions.

They are usually shaped into slightly flattened balls, pan fried and then cooked in tomato sauce or broth. These kind of meatballs are also sometimes referred to as Koftas in the Middle-East.

Frying them first holds the flavor better in the meatballs and creates a soft texture on the inside but crispy on the outside.

These meat balls are melt in your mouth delicious. This simple tomato sauce adds so much flavor to them and is perfect to serve over rice, pasta or couscous.

These are made using my basic kebab recipe which I have previously added to my blog and can be seen in the link below.

I like to cook my ktizitzot from a mix lean ground lamb and beef. I grind my own meat at home but you can have the butcher grind it for you. I do recommend picking the meat out unground but you can also just buy ready ground meat. Mixing the two kinds of meat gives these meat balls a perfect balance dominated a little more by the lamb flavor.

Here I am sharing my basic tomato sauce which I vary depending on what I am adding it to. There are not very many ingredients needed and it is very easy to make.

Ingredients needed:

For meat balls

1lb ground lamb (I use lean leg of lamb)

½ lb ground beef (I use a mix of ¼lb chuck steak and ¼lb sirloin steak)

1 large onion chopped

1 medium potato pealed and cut into large chunks

2 eggs

½ cup of breadcrumbs

1 cup cilantro chopped (can be parsley or a mix of both)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon cumin

1teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons oil for sautéing onion

Canola oil for frying meat balls

For Sauce: all spice ingredients can be adjusted to your taste

4 medium tomatoes chopped small

I onion chopped small

1 15 oz can of tomato sauce

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ bunch parsley, chopped

3/4 teaspoon sugar

2-3 tablespoons olive oil,

½ - 1 teaspoon salt - adjust to taste

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ harissa hot sauce

½ teaspoon trumeric

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 cup tap water

To make the meatballs:

Put cut up peeled potato, put into a pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer until potato is soft enough to mash. This is the secret ingredient. It adds an amazing texture to the kebabs. Drain well when ready and mash with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large round deep frying pan and sauté onions until golden and translucent. Let cool. You don't want to add warm ingredients to the following mix or it will slightly cook your meat.

This the second secret tip. Many cooks add raw chopped onions to meat balls or patties. I find that sautéing them first gives the kebabs a much better flavor.

In a large bowl, add both types of ground meat and all the other ingredients and mix well. I like to use my hands, I like to feel the ingredients completely blending together. It is actually quicker to mix it this way than to use a wooden spoon.

Cover with Saran Wrap and place in refrigerator for about 30 minutes. I've mixed this the night before and left it in the fridge until I was ready to cook the kebabs. It's perfectly ok to do this.

Wet hands slightly and form patties, I like them not too thick and a little flatened. I form all my patties first and lay them on a flat surface before starting to fry them so that they all finish cooking at around the same time.

In the same large deep frying pan you used for your onions, fill pan to half way up with Canola oil. Bring to a fairly high heat. Drop patties in, don't croud your pan too much. Fry for about 4 minutes turning them over gently with a fork when they look a little browned.

Take them out of the oil onto a large plate covered with kitchen paper to absorb the oil. These kebabs do not retain any of the oil and come out so delicious. Place on parchment paper and set aside while you make the tomato sauce.

To make the sauce:

Heat olive oil in a pan and sauté onions until golden and translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and continue sautéing until tomatoes are soft and mixed well with the onions.

Keeping pan on a low heat add the spices. Mix for a minute and add the garlic. Mix for another minute being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the sugar and tomato sauce. Mix.

Add the water bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. If the water is all absorbed add a little more. If the sauce is too watery take off cover and continue cooking for a few minutes until it reduces.

This dish is delicious served with couscous, pasta or rice. Use my homemade pita bread in the link below to clean the plate with. It is too good to leave over.


If you have sauce left over, freeze it. When you need sauce for Shakshukah or anything with a tomato sauce you will have it ready. Just defrost in the fridge overnight or for a couple of hours on the kitchen counter.

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