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Meatballs with Bulgur in Onion and Tomato Sauce

By Galen Lau
Adapted from this recipe at



Refrigeration time: 1 hour

Yields: 4 servings


  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, veal, lamb or pork or a combination
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup coarse bulgur
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 lb whole wheat orzo
  • 1 large onion, sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the meat, parsley, bulgur, egg, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half of the minced garlic, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt,and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Shape the meat mixture into 1 ½-inch-diameter balls, and put them into another medium bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour, or up to 4 hours.
  2. Cook the orzo in a large boiling pot of water, for 7 minutes. Reserve ½ cup pasta water, and drain the orzo in a colander.
  3. In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat. Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and the onions to the skillet. Saute until the edges brown, about 1 minute. Then turn the heat down to medium and continue to saute until slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, cinnamon stick, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Carefully add the meatballs to the skillet; the sauce should almost cover them. Add the water, bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick. Serve the meatballs and sauce over the orzo.