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Appetizers, Mains

Bulgur meatballs with tomato pepper sauce

Bulgur meatballs with tomato pepper sauce
Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Indulging in fried foods is traditional during the eight days of Hanukkah, which begins this year on the evening of Dec. 24 and concludes on Jan. 1. That’s because the customs of the Festival of Lights commemorate the miracle of ... Read more

Total time: 1½ hours | Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer, or 6 to 8 as a main course

Tomato pepper sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 Anaheim chile, seeded and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon semi-hot red pepper

Step 1Heat the oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the bell pepper and chile and cook over medium-low heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook about 1/2 minute, stirring frequently.

Step 2Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for salt, and season to taste with black and red pepper. This makes a generous pint of sauce. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Bulgur meatballs with tomato pepper sauce

  • Prepared Tomato pepper sauce
  • 2 cups (11 ounces) fine bulgur wheat (bulgur No. 1)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon semi-hot red pepper, such as Maras pepper or Aleppo pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice, or to taste
  • 1/2 pound lean or extra-lean ground beef
  • About 2½ cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
  • About 3/4 cup olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1 teaspoon semi-hot red pepper flakes such as Turkish Maras pepper or Aleppo pepper, for finishing
  • Italian parsley in small sprigs, for serving

Step 1In a food processor, combine the bulgur, onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, red pepper and allspice and process briefly to blend. Add the ground meat in 4 portions and process briefly to mix. Add 2 cups water in 4 additions, processing to blend after each addition. Scrape down mixture. Add 6 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and process after each addition. The mixture should be sticky. Process the mixture until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 2Transfer the mixture to a bowl and knead until it is very smooth, adding the last 3 tablespoons water. Check that the mixture is evenly moistened. This makes about 1 quart mix.

Step 3Make a test meatball: Take about 1 teaspoon of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Fry the meatball in a small skillet heated with a thin layer of oil until the meatball is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if desired, then test again until the flavors are right.

Step 4Moisten your hands and roll the mixture into small meatballs, using a rounded teaspoon of mixture for each one. Set them on a plate.

Step 5Prepare a steamer (make sure the boiling water doesn’t touch the steamer top). Add 1/3 the bulgur meatballs, or enough to make one layer, to the steamer top. (They expand a little while steaming.) Cover and steam over medium heat for 18 to 20 minutes or until they are cooked through. Refrigerate the rest of the mixture until all of the meatballs are steamed.

Step 6Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add about 1/4 of the bulgur meatballs and sauté until lightly browned, about 3 minutes per side; shake the pan to turn the meatballs over, or use a slotted spoon. Just before removing them from the pan, add 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes and sauté for a few seconds. Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Wipe the pan if necessary, add more oil and repeat until all the meatballs are cooked.

Step 7Serve the meatballs on a platter garnished with parsley sprigs. Serve the sauce separately.


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