Kafta (commonly pronounced Kofta) is basically meatballs but generally a bit more gourmet. It is a common dish to the Asian subcontinent, the Middle East, and some of Central Asia. Everybody makes it a bit different – even in the Middle East it will differ from country to country. Palestinians will make it one of three ways: (1) kafta with a tomato base, (2) kafta with a tahini base, and (3) grilled kafta kabobs.
In the US as Middle Eastern food becomes more and more popular, the third variation is seen quite often. Any Arab restaurant will serve it if they serve grilled foods (which most of them do). Growing up the oven baked variations with a tomato or tahini base was what my mom used to make. As an “adult” I like the second variation: kafta with a tahini base. It is just absolutely delicious!
This recipe is not necessarily the easiest but it is also pretty simple. There are two parts, the kafta or meatballs themselves and the tahini sauce. It makes 4 servings and is usually either paired with pita bread or Rice with Veggies and a side salad or a Tiny Arab Salad.
Here we go!
- 1/2 bunch curly parsley
- 1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 pound ground beef (may also use ground lamb or mixture)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Tahini Sauce
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Toasted pinenuts
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Place parsley, onion, garlic in food processor and pulse until fine (save processor for tahini sauce)
- In a large bowl, mix parsley mixture with meat and salt and pepper
- Make medium sized meatballs so that you get 16-20 meatballs (roughly 1.5-2″ in diameter, larger or smaller is fine as well)
- OPTIONAL STEP but recommended, place meatballs on baking sheet and bake until 3/4 way cooked (roughly 15 minutes); this will allow the fat to drop out of the meatballs and be removed
- Make tahini sauce by pulsing the tahini, lemon juice, water, and salt until a smooth liquid forms, the consistency of buttermilk (may need to add more water to get correct consistency)
- Place meatballs and tahini sauce in a baking bowl
- Bake for 15 minutes if completed step 5, otherwise bake for 40 minutes until meatballs no longer pink in the middle
- Top with toasted pinenuts and enjoy!