Behold, a bright and sunny main dish that’s perfect for any spring celebration! These tender and flavorful meatballs, napped in a tangy, lemony sauce, are not only delicious, they’re appropriate for a Passover Seder, Easter dinner, or even just tonight's main course.
While Hanukkah and Thanksgiving only coincide once in a blue moon, Passover and Easter often overlap on the spring calendar. Surprisingly, not much has been done to bridge the culinary divide between the strictly chametz-free seder table and the Easter buffet, which usually stars a decidedly unkosher ham.
Lamb is a go-to main course for Easter and Passover dinners alike, so why not combine traditions and make a dish that has roots in both early Roman and Sephardic cuisines? Both cuisines have dishes of meat or meatballs served in a lemony sauce thickened with egg yolks. Roman Abbacchio Brodettato is a braised lamb dish — at the end of cooking, egg yolks and lemon juice are whisked into the braising liquid, thickening it into a sauce. In Sephardic tradition, a similar sauce called Agristada is often served over meatballs made of chicken or beef, or alternatively, with fish or vegetables. Both dishes are more soupy than saucy, akin to Greek Avgolemono soup.
I wanted to bring the best parts of both recipes together, making flavorful meatballs by combining ground lamb and beef. Instead of breadcrumbs, Passover-friendly matzo meal lightens up the texture of the ground meat. The accompanying egg and lemon sauce is thick and velvety; it’s basically a Hollandaise sauce without the butter. It’ll coat the back of a wooden spoon when you’ve whisked it to the right consistency.
Spoon the sauce over the meatballs and serve with boiled new potatoes and steamed asparagus. This makes a beautiful meal to please guests from both traditions.
Lamb Meatballs with Egg & Lemon Sauce
Serves 8 (makes 24 meatballs and 1 1/2 cups of sauce)
For the meatballs: 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 cup matzo meal
2 jumbo eggs
1 cup water
10 large sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound extra lean (96/4) ground beef
For the egg and lemon sauce: 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
4 jumbo egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional, for color)
To make the meatballs: In a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil just until some small bubbles appear around the garlic and it becomes aromatic, about two minutes.
Add the diced onions and salt to the skillet, and sauté until the onions are softened, translucent, and have wilted considerably but not yet begun to brown, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk together the matzo meal, eggs, water, parsley, and black pepper to form a paste. Let sit for about 15 minutes.
When the onions and garlic have cooled, add them to the mixing bowl with the matzo meal paste and stir until thoroughly combined.
Add the ground lamb and beef to the mixing bowl. Using your hands, a sturdy spatula or a wooden spoon, gently combine the ground meats with the matzo meal mixture until just combined.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Use an ice cream scoop or 1/4-cup measure to portion out the mixture into meatballs, rolling them by hand and placing on the baking sheets, two inches apart.
Bake the meatballs until cooked through and golden brown on top, about 40 minutes.
To make the egg and lemon sauce: In the top pot of a double boiler over medium heat, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, egg yolks, and turmeric together. Whisk often and vigorously until hot and thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes.
Serve immediately, spooning about a tablespoon of sauce onto each meatball.
If you are holding the sauce before serving, it will thicken up a bit — thin it out to a pourable consistency by whisking in a tablespoon or two of hot water.
If you are unable to track down ground lamb, you can ask your butcher to grind a pound of lamb shoulder, or grind your own at home. Here’s our tutorial on how to use your food processor for this task.