K’tzitzot are Israeli meatballs or patties that are beloved in Israeli households as an every day lunch or dinner. They are typically made with ground beef, lamb or veal, flavored with Middle Eastern spices and served alongside rice or couscous and vegetables for a satisfying meal.
These lemony, herby meatballs are inspired by many versions I’ve tasted in Moroccan-Israeli kitchens. Lamb gives them a rich, velvety texture and I’ve added omani lime, cinnamon and herbs for extra brightness and warmth. Omani limes are dried, black Persian limes which are most often found in North African tagines or Iranian stews like Ghormeh Sabzi. You can grind them yourself or buy them in powdered form. I like Sadaf brand, which can be found on Amazon and in most Middle Eastern spice shops. Omani lime lends a nice, sour note to the dish, so if you can’t find it you could substitute a tablespoon or two of lemon juice; you’ll still get the tang and acidity of citrus.
These meatballs are baked on a sheet pan, which is much quicker and cleaner than frying them on a stovetop yet yields a similar flavor and color. I prefer using prefer using parsnips and turnips to accompany these meatballs, but you can use any vegetables you like or have available, including carrots, radishes, beets or rutabagas.
Note: After the meatballs are baked, they are tossed in pomegranate syrup and the remaining juices from the cooked meatballs. If you don’t have pomegranate syrup on hand, you can omit this step and just reserve some of the liquid from the meatballs to drizzle on top,
For the roasted root vegetables:
- 1 bunch colorful carrots, scrubbed clean and tops removed
- 1 large parsnip, scrubbed clean
- 1 large turnip, scrubbed clean
- 1 large sweet potato, scrubbed clean
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 Tbsp honey, divided
- juice of half lemon
- half lemon cut into slices
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp za’atar
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- Flaky salt, for serving
For the lamb meatballs:
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2-3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp dried omani lime powder (or substitute 1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice)
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses for serving (optional)
- To roast the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the carrots, parsnip and sweet potato in half lengthwise and then again crosswise several times to create long, slightly uneven spears. Cut the turnip in half and then slice into thin planks.
- Toss the cut vegetables with the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the honey, lemon juice, lemon slices, spices and herbs. Spread out on a baking paper lined baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, until, crispy and blackened in areas.
- When the vegetables are finished cooking, quickly drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of honey and some flaky salt while still hot.
- To make the meatballs: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drizzle with a thin, even layer of olive oil.
- Combine the lamb, onion, garlic, herbs, spices and salt in a large bowl. Roll into balls around the size of 2 tablespoons (this will yield around 16 meatballs) and set on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 5, until the meatballs are well browned and lamb juices are bubbling on the sheet pan. Remove from oven.
- Pour the lamb juices/fat off from the sheet into a small sauce-pan and add the pomegranate molasses. Heat together over a medium flame and add the meatballs to the pan, tossing to coat until sticky and glistening, 3-4 minutes.
- Serve meatballs with roasted vegetables and rice or couscous if desired.