Middle Eastern meatballs in tomato sauce

These meatballs are just heavenly. Nici Wickes shares her mum's meatball recipe that sees mince spiked with typical spices of Middle Eastern cuisines and sweetened with dates. They are amazing!

By Nici Wickes
  • 45 mins cooking
  • Serves 4
  • Print


  • 500 gram beef or lamb mince
  • 6 pitted dates (125g), chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and decent grind black pepper
  • flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 small onions, sliced
  • 1 carrot, ribboned using a potato peeler
  • 400 gram tin crushed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • extra toasted pine nuts, to serve


  • 1
    In a bowl, mix all the meatball ingredients except the flour and oil until combined. Shape into large balls (about the size of a large egg, you should get 8-10) and roll each in flour.
  • 2
    Heat the oil in a pan and fry until golden brown all over. They will cook more in the sauce so they don’t need to be cooked through. Set aside while you make the sauce.
  • 3
    To make the sauce, use a large frying pan to gently fry the onions for 20 minutes until softened. Add the carrot ribbons and tomatoes, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • 4
    Add the browned meatballs to the sauce, then cover and cook until the meatballs are cooked through – about 10-15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. You could also place the pan in a medium oven to finish cooking.
  • 5
    Garnish with the extra pine nuts and serve 2-3 meatballs plus sauce for each person with couscous, rice and/or a green salad.


  • Making larger meatballs is both a time saver and a way to ensure they are kept juicy!

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