nancy silverton’s lamb meatballs with piquillo pepper and chickpea sauce

November 3rd, 2008 · 35 Comments

one of the best meals that i have ever had, as in EVER, was not surprisingly at a restaurant owned by the stellar batali/bastianich duo, along with chef nancy silverton. the dinner was spectacular. it was one of those nights when the kitchen must have been firing on all cylinders, unlike my dinner six nights later at babbo where we had a somewhat disappointing culinary affair. but osteria mozza was a solid 9+. it was truly a near perfect dinner. i distinctly recall the simply prepared and impeccably grilled octopus with potatoes, celery and lemon, the calf’s brain ravioli (that absolutely blew me away) as well as the crisp and ultra tender duck that came served on a wooden plank with a wonderful pear mostarda. all three dishes were exquisite. somehow i can only barely remember the rest, but to begin with there was ‘mozza’s’ obligatory and creamy burrata, ours served with a leeks vinaigrette – and to finish, a torta with pine nuts and honey along with some bombolini and lemon curd. absolutely smashing.

being an east coast oriented kind of person, i was somehow not aware of nancy and the famed ‘la brea’ and ‘campanile’. and all the cookbooks and the awards and various accolades, i was in the dark… until last year when i fell upon a book called ‘a twist of the wrist – quick flavorful meals with ingredients from jars, cans, bags, and boxes’. but before you gasp at the very notion that i’ve gone all sandra lee on you, let me assure you that this is nothing like that. or maybe it is, except the jars, cans, bags and boxes that silverton suggests are the very kind that line my pantry. most of which are mail ordered or bought at specialty stores. most of which might be considered ‘high brow’ or ‘pricey’ or just not what most people are used to seeing. and so if you know me then you would easily understand that i LOVED the idea of this book when i heard about it because well, i am only willing to go so far with my cooking. but i am, if nothing, a fanatical fan of the finest…

and i was excited enough about this book to want to spread the word. so one afternoon, not long after owning ‘twist of the wrist’ a friend stopped by and began curiously flipping through its pages. so i sent her home with the book – if only to prove the "convenience" point. i haven’t seen it since (although i was truly and duly thanked) and i’ve been remiss in buying another.

but just the other day i was fortunate enough to come across this recipe on the new food & wine website. and with a jar of beautiful piquillo peppers and a can of chickpeas along with some fage greek yogurt - all already owned by moi, i made us a spectacular dinner served over instant italian organic polenta. and dear readers, we were eating a superb dinner that was prepared in about 30 minutes from start to finish.

lamb meatballs with piquillo peppers and chickpea sauce
adapted from nancy silverton’s ‘a twist of the wrist’ via food & wine 

*cook’s note - after the meatballs were browned, i drained off probably 3/4 of the oil and fat in the pan before adding the peppers, stock and yogurt.

1/2 cup roasted piquillo peppers from a jar
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt, preferably greek, plus more for serving
2 pounds ground lamb
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
4 teaspoons (i suggest using 3) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups chickpeas from a jar or can, drained

in a mini food processor, puree the peppers. transfer the puree to a bowl and whisk in the broth and 1/2 cup yogurt. in a large bowl,

combine the lamb, eggs, garlic, 1/4 cup parsley and the thyme and smoked paprika. add the 4 teaspoons kosher salt. using your hands, gently mix, then roll into sixteen 2-inch meatballs. in a very large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. add the meatballs and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 8 minutes.

slide the meatballs to one side of the pan. add the red-pepper sauce and the chickpeas and bring just to a boil. (*see cook’s note above)

simmer the meatballs over moderately low heat, stirring and turning them occasionally in the sauce, until the sauce reduces slightly, 10 minutes. season with salt. transfer the meatballs and chickpeas to a platter,

spoon the pepper sauce on top, garnish with parsley and serve with yogurt.

as of tonight, ‘twist of the wrist’ has once again been ordered. if you come by the house, i’ll be keeping an eye on my copy…

Tags: beans · lamb

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 NOBLE PIG // Nov 3, 2008 at 1:09 am

    That does sound like a great book. And what a great recipe, I love it. I really love piquillo peppers and stock them at home at all times…I use them in crab dip…yum.

  • 2 Choosy Beggar Tina // Nov 3, 2008 at 6:14 am

    Is there another pepper that is similar to piquillo for those of us whose grocery stores are rather more limited?

    And….calf brain ravioli. That’s something that I would love to try as long as I didn’t know what it was made of until AFTER I ate it. No, wait, I change my mind….I would probably order it and then humiliate my dinner companions by doing a zombie impression and asking for, “Braaaaaainnnnzes, feed me BRAAAAAAAINZES.”

  • 3 Robert // Nov 3, 2008 at 7:12 am


    Grandma had a name for people who cooked out of boxes and cans. And instant Polen.. ,uh, grits? Whoa, dont get her started.

    But then, it took 30 minutes just to make the grits.

  • 4 The Italian Dish // Nov 3, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Well, I’ve never heard of that book but it sounds interesting – different from the ordinary cookbooks. I’m checking it out on Amazon this morning. Love the combination of the meatballs and chickpeas.

  • 5 claudia // Nov 3, 2008 at 9:07 am

    noble – the piquillo’s are wonderful. now that i’ve used my pantry jar i need to get more.

    tina – any roasted red pepper would do. as for the restaurant behavior… very scary indeed.

    robert – slower is better. i’m all about the 3 hour polenta. i’ve done it and there is no comparison. but this is a wonderful option for when you need it fast. and sometimes you do. see:

    italian dish – it has its place. and it gives ideas for the best throw together on the spot kinda dishes. i honor that.

  • 6 becky and the beanstock // Nov 3, 2008 at 9:36 am

    I love your posts. Even when it’s stuff I can’t eat (being pescetarian and all), I love them. And you can imagine how excited pescetarians get about chickpea sauce — there’s always something new here.

  • 7 maybelles mom // Nov 3, 2008 at 10:46 am

    oh dear, great post. i might have this this week. I think you would be way hotter than Rachel ray on 30 min meals.

  • 8 Robert // Nov 3, 2008 at 10:56 am


    ……way hotter than Rachel Ray……..


  • 9 Peter // Nov 3, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Way hotter, and also way less idiotic, and way less likely to squeal “Yum-O!” every 30 seconds, cramming those chipmunk cheeks with subpar vittles until you just want to put a cleaver through the TV screen.

    Also, I see lamb meatballs in my immediate future, goshdarnit, also. You betcha!

  • 10 Sara // Nov 3, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I LOVE this book, I thought I was the only one cooking from it! Everything I’ve made has been great – I haven’t made this recipe yet, but it’s on the list to try.

  • 11 cookiecrumb // Nov 3, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Ohghod, gwudgeous!!
    Remember when convenience cooking from a can or jar was… something my mom did? Eek.
    But: “Friend”?

  • 12 lo // Nov 3, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I’m totally all over these meatballs. And I’m thinking I might need to get all over that cookbook.

    I’m a bit Nancy Silverton fan (we have a sandwich cookbook of hers that I ADORE)… and this is totally on my list of things to make. Thanks for the tip-off!

  • 13 Kristie // Nov 3, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Oh NO! Babbo wasn’t awesome? But that’s one of the ones I have on my list of places to eat before I die!

    And I’m totally like you–my pantry is this vast warehouse of exotic ingredients that I bought online because I liked the pictures (might be different from your motivation).

  • 14 claudia // Nov 3, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    kristie – keep it on your list. and yes, out motivations are not so different… great packaging sucks me in.

    lo – i love the woman. talented and wildly successful. and she works her butt off.

    cookie – yes my mom still wants to make the durkee onion rings with the green beans and cream of mushroom soup. NO WAY !!!

    sara – we could start a ‘twist of the wrist’ club!

    peter – i can’t even utter the word (yummy). ick… but i’ll bet rr is cool to hang with. i kinda like her just not her food. my thoughts are that off camera she is great.

    maybelle’s mom – i wonder how’d you spiff this one up?

    becky – the feeling is mutual.

  • 15 Marc @ NoRecipes // Nov 3, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    That looks amazing Claudia! I’ve never been to Babbo, but I was not super impressed with Del Posto and for the money I’d rather have 3 dinners at Lupa instead.

  • 16 Chris // Nov 3, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Next time I am out LA way I’ll have to stop in to Osteria Mozza.
    The dish looks wonderful.

  • 17 Donald // Nov 4, 2008 at 4:31 am

    Very hearty!

    I have never heard of that book. I usually tend to stay away from “quick” cook books for the most part. This one sounds different.

    I love lamb meatballs.

  • 18 Robert // Nov 4, 2008 at 7:17 am


    When you (dont) say it, it sounds just like the Sonnys BBQ guy………

  • 19 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Nov 4, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Beautiful dish – and definitely NOT EVEN CLOSE to Sandra Lee, whether you used jarred ingredients or not.

    I feel a little happier every time someone says their meal at Babbo wasn’t so great. I had reservations to go there two years ago. It was a Christmas present from my father. He miraculously was able to get a good time on a Friday without much trouble. Then my husband got a bad case of the flu and had to cancel. We were never able to get a good time and date again, so we had to cancel. To this day, I still wonder what the meal had been like. I suspect it might have been disappointing.

  • 20 Susan/Wild Yeast // Nov 4, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I love it! Thanks for the heads-up on the book (which I hadn’t heard of though I’m a fan of Silverton’s baking books).

  • 21 We Are Never Full // Nov 4, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    Really love the idea of this. I’m thinking of that sauce all over many things (get your head out of your ass!). And please don’t even write the name “s**dra l*e” on your blog ever again. EVER.

  • 22 democommie // Nov 4, 2008 at 8:37 pm


    You know how I’m always saying that I’m not jealous of your fabulousityness? Well, I’m starting to edge in that direction!

    I just loaned my copy of “The Scavenger’s Guide To Haute Cuisine” to a sous chef I know and he’s going to loan me Fernand Point’s journal.

    I once made a birthday dinner for a lady friend. She requested “green bean casserole”. I said I would do it, but only if I did it my way. Fresh green beans, sauteed onions, sauteed mushrooms, heavy cream, a soupcon of fontina cheese and some nice breadcrumbs from my homemade bread. She was VERY happy–so was I.

  • 23 Maggie @ Eat Boutique // Nov 5, 2008 at 12:20 am

    OMG. I bought ground lamb this evening to make mint-lamb meatballs but I may have to reconsider and try this recipe!

    Hope you’re well,

  • 24 Lauren // Nov 5, 2008 at 9:09 am

    wow. that looks like some seriously comforting, seriously good food. it’s cold out this morning and that looks warm and great.

  • 25 Biz // Nov 5, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    You kinda lost me with the calf’s brain ravioli, but the rest sounds/looks delicious!

    I wish I were braver to try new foods!

  • 26 lifeinrecipes // Nov 5, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I’ve had smash hits as well as mediocre moments with the book – this dish looks like a clear winner.

    And I’m just so happy that you have a new post up and I don’t have to look at the nasty liver anymore.

  • 27 Ethel // Nov 5, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    This time is for real. I am making this dish. I say for real because every time I read your blog I am dying to start being cook creative , but chicken out due to laziness and more of the same. What about adding some pine nuts and raisins in the meatballs? Yes !! I am getting the urge to cook “Claudia’s way.” for this terrific meal. Of course the 30 min. helps too.

  • 28 MEM // Nov 7, 2008 at 2:09 am

    Your opening reminiscence made me realize that it’s been waaaay too long since I’ve had a stellar restaurant meal, so thanks I think…I should get on that.

    And I just had that moment where, in the midst of seemingly unbounded recipe fatigue, you can suddenly see something that pushes your Reset button and finally you can return to Wanting to Eat. Lamb meatballs, be mine.

  • 29 Abby @ mangerlaville // Nov 8, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Sounds so good. I want to go find those piquillo peppers. But I bet I could roast some peppers from the market and it could be pretty good.

  • 30 Laura // Nov 8, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Making these tonight. Except I cannot afford good (i.e. responsibly raised) ground lamb, therefore I will use good (i.e. responsibly raised) ground beef. Lame? Possibly.

    Also, I found jarred piquillo peppers in two varieties: roasted and grilled. I bought the roasted but now wonder if I shouldn’t have gone for the grilled. Thoughts?

  • 31 Laura // Nov 8, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    I’m currently in a state of meatball-drunkenness. SO fab. I actually blogged about it myself.

  • 32 Mari // Nov 12, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Lamb and chickpeas are a divine combo, you really can’t go wrong there.

  • 33 tokyoastrogirl // Nov 17, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    This looks amazing. Did you use smoked hot or smoked sweet paprika?

  • 34 RosieHawthorne // Nov 18, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I made it last night and it was delicious.

  • 35 Brittany // Nov 20, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Oh god I LOVE pequillo peppers (particularly when stuffed with duck confit)

    These are balls that need to be in my mouth. Now.

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