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Kafta الكفتة الشامية سورية اليوم: Syrian Meatballs in Rich Tomato Sauce

Posted by Filipe Carballo on

Eat the change you want to see in the world...

This recipe is adapted from Miriam Kresh's recipe on Green Prophet: Sustainable News for the Middle East

In São Paulo Brazil, where I grew up, there's a big Syrian and Lebanese population. Lots of families started in the food business in the 20s, so most of the "Arab" restaurants started with someone's grandmother as the cook. Right in front of my school in São Paulo there was (still is) one Arab restaurant where the whole family worked. I ate there regularly for years and the food was fantastic. Some of my favourites were:

  • different types of " kaftas" (shaped ground lamb and beef with garlic, mint)
  • kebabs (meat on a stick )
  • esfiha (pastry with ground beef or cheese)
  • kibe ( deep fried beef cake)
  • hummus ( chickpea paste)
  • taboulé (traditional chopped salad ).

Today "Arab " food is extremely popular in the whole country. Kaftas are traditionally made with lamb but you can really substitute any meat and try different variations of the recipe.

Ingredients for Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 250 grams – 1/2 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2- 1 teaspoon cayenne flakes or 1/2 dried red chili
  • 1 quart water or bone broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Ingredients for Kafta:

  • 500 grams – 1 lb. ground lamb (or substitute any ground meat)
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground allspice berries
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped fine


The Sauce:

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic. Reduce the heat to low, and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add carrot, flour, tomato, tomato paste, chile, and water. Stir well. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and pass through a sieve or puree in blender. Put the sauce in a large skillet that can hold all the meatballs.

Preheat the broiler.

The Meatballs:

Knead together the ground lamb, flour, egg yolk, salt, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg,  allspice and parsley. Form meatballs the size of large eggs. Arrange them on a broiling tray and broil until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the sauce in the skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until bubbling furiously, 10 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Traditionally served with rice, couscous, or bulgur but try it with farro, quinoa or wheat berries


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