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(Photo credit: Doug Young)

Like most cultures have some kind of dumpling folded into their culinary traditions, meatballs—be they animal, fish or vegetarian or called by any other number of names—are a compact comfort food of compounded flavors. While so many of us identify with Italian culture as the pinnacle of meaty, orb-shaped deliciousness, there’s some good argument to be made that the Romans may well have gotten meatballs from the Greeks.

Debate the topic over a plate of these intensely flavored, spice-driven keftides from Water Mill’s wonderful Calissa. Remember: A key with meatball texture is to not overmix. Gently incorporate the ingredients (using your hands is best—don’t be a chicken with your lamb!) for the best outcome. Serve them as an hors d’oeuvres with pita and tzatziki sauce and they’ll disappear faster than you can say, “What meatballs?” As a main, the good folks at Calissa recommend drizzling them in tomato sauce and grating a little gravieria cheese over the top.

Calissa’s Keftedes

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes


  • 2 lbs ground lamb or beef
  • 1 small red onion grated
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp hot, smoked paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine lamb or beef, grated onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, spices and eggs. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil. Mix until just well-combined.
  • Using a tablespoon, measure out individual rounds of the mixture onto a clean work surface. You should have around 32-35 pieces. Roll into balls. [Tip: Keep a small bowl of cold water next to your work area and moisten hands as needed to keep meat from sticking to your palms and fingers.]
  • Heat enough olive oil to just cover the surface of a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Cook in two or three batches, rolling around so each side is nicely browned, about 6-9 minutes.
  • Remove to a paper-towel lined plate, cover with aluminum foil or a large enough pot lid to keep warm. Enjoy!