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Juicy Harissa, Feta and Zucchini Meatballs

May 14, 2024 | 0 comments

You’re just 30 minutes away from a big pile of juicy meatballs, studded with chunks of feta, harissa paste and grated zucchini to keep them lovely and moist. Serve with a smoky red pepper sauce and fresh focaccia or flatbreads on the side for a wonderful quick, easy, family-friendly meal.

Meatballs piled on top of smoky red pepper sauce with flowers in the background.

There’s nothing quite like a juicy little meatball. They’re one of my favorite things to make because they’re so versatile and keep wonderfully – pile them on top of a lovely sauce like I’m doing here and serve with flatbreads, or toss them through pasta or salads for an extra bit of protein.

You can also very easily sneak vegetables into them without anyone realizing (excellent for my zucchini-hating boyfriend – or kids!)

Usually, to keep meatballs lovely and moist and to stop them from turning into hard little meat rocks, they need something to help keep the moisture in and a binder to help them keep their shape. Typically that’s egg and breadcrumbs, but here we’ll use grated zucchini and harissa paste. The result is very moreish, very juicy meatballs the whole family will love.

Ingredients

Ingredients for harissa, feta & zucchini meatballs laid out and labelled.
  • Ground beef. I’ve used lean ground beef here and they still came out super juicy, but they’ll be even juicier if you use beef with a higher percentage of fat. You could swap beef for ground turkey, chicken, pork or a plant-based alternative.
  • Zucchini (courgettes). This is the secret to keeping the meatballs juicy, without any egg or breadcrumbs. Zucchini contain a lot of water
  • Feta. Chunks of creamy feta running through the meatballs is a wonderful addition, but you could leave it out if you like, or use goat’s cheese.
  • Harissa paste. This North African chili paste is something I always have on hand. Ingredients vary, but it’s usually a mix of red peppers, chilies and spices like cumin and coriander. It adds a wonderful burst of flavor to these meatballs (and also helps to keep them moist).
  • Cottage cheese. This – along with feta – forms the base of the smoky red pepper sauce I like to serve the meatballs with. If you’re not a cottage cheese fan, you could swap it for Greek yogurt, sour cream or cream cheese, but I recommend trying it at least once here. When you blitz cottage cheese it becomes smooth and creamy and loses the lumpy texture.
  • Jarred red bell peppers. You’ll use these in the smoky sauce – you can roast your own peppers but jarred makes things a lot quicker and easier.

How to make them

Add all the ingredients for your meatballs to a large bowl and mix very well to combine – you want to make sure the seasoning is properly dispersed throughout the beef.

Scoop up spoonfuls of the mixture and roll them into balls in your hands, then pop them onto a lined oven tray. It’s easiest to do this with slightly wet hands so the mixture doesn’t stick to you. Bake the meatballs until lovely and golden.

While they’re baking, blitz all the ingredients for your smoky red pepper sauce and prep your toppings. Serve the meatballs on top of the sauce, then scatter over your cucumber, herbs and red pepper flakes.

Got a question?

Can I make the meatballs in advance?

You can! You can form the meatballs, then pop them in the fridge for a couple of days before cooking them. Any cooked meatballs will keep well for about 5 days in the fridge, to enjoy in different ways. I love throwing cold meatballs into salads for an easy, delicious hit of protein.

What can I serve the meatballs with?

There are many options here. Serve them with a pile of fluffy flatbreads (try these 2 ingredient dough flatbreads or garlic butter flatbreads) or soft chilli cheese focaccia, pair them with a couple of colorful salads (this rainbow chopped salad, grilled broccoli salad, Greek quinoa salad or Mediterranean white bean salad are great choices) or you could serve them with steamed rice or pasta (use the smoky red pepper sauce as a quick pasta sauce!)

Can the meatballs be frozen?

They can – you can either freeze the uncooked meatballs or freeze them once they’re cooked. You can cook them straight from frozen (just add another 10 minutes to the cooking time).

Watch how to make them

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Meatballs piled on top of smoky red pepper sauce with flowers in the background.

Juicy Harissa, Feta and Zucchini Meatballs


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  • Author: Kate Phillips
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

You’re just 30 minutes away from a big pile of juicy meatballs, studded with chunks of feta, harissa paste and grated zucchini to keep them lovely and moist, with no eggs or breadcrumbs. Serve with a smoky red pepper sauce and fresh focaccia or flatbreads on the side for a wonderful quick, easy, family-friendly meal.


Ingredients

Units Scale

For the meatballs –

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large zucchini, grated
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3.5oz/100g feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

For the smoky red pepper sauce – 

  • 3 roasted red peppers (from a jar)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (or Greek yogurt, sour cream or cream cheese)
  • 3.5oz/100g feta

To serve – 

  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • Handful of chives, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons red bell pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Form the meatballs. Heat your oven to 220C/430F and line an oven tray with baking paper. Add the ground beef to a large mixing bowl, then add the grated zucchini, crumbled feta, 2 tablespoons of harissa paste, crushed garlic, chopped parsley, scallions, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin. Use a spoon to mix everything through the beef so it’s well combined and evenly distributed.
  2. Form the meatballs. Scoop up a heaped tablespoon of the meatball mixture, and roll it into a small ball in your hands. Place on the prepared baking tray, and repeat with the rest of the mixture. PRO TIP: Wetting your hands slightly before doing this will make it a little easier (it’ll prevent the mixture from sticking).
  3. Bake the meatballs. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil, then transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until lovely and golden brown. Remove from the oven.
  4. Make the smoky red pepper sauce. While the meatballs are in the oven, add the jarred red peppers, cottage cheese, the remaining feta, 2 garlic cloves,1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of harissa paste and 1 teaspoon of salt to a food processor, food chopper or blender. Blitz to combine into a lovely, smooth, creamy sauce. Taste and season with a little more salt if needed.
  5. Garnish and serve. Spoon about half the smoky red pepper sauce onto the base of a serving platter or bowl, then pile the meatballs on top. Scatter over the diced cucumber, chives and red pepper flakes.

Notes

MAKE AHEAD: You can form the meatballs, then pop them in the fridge for a couple of days before cooking them. You can freeze the meatballs once they’re formed too – freeze until solid on an oven tray or plate, then transfer them to ziplock bags to store. Cook them straight from frozen (just add another 10 minutes to the cooking time).

STORAGE INSTRUCTIONS: Any cooked meatballs will keep well for about 5 days in the fridge. You can also freeze the meatballs once they’re cooked, then defrost in the fridge overnight. Reheat until piping hot in the microwave or in the oven for 10 minutes at 360F/180C.

INGREDIENT NOTES: Harissa paste is a North African red pepper and chili paste – if you can’t find it, use another chili paste instead. You could swap the ground beef for ground lamb, chicken, or turkey or use a plant-based alternative.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: You could pair the meatballs with lovely fluffy flatbreads (these 2 ingredient dough flatbreads or garlic butter flatbreads are great) or chili cheese focaccia. Or serve with a selection of salads (try them with this grilled broccoli salad, smashed potato salad, pesto orzo salad or Greek quinoa salad), or you could serve them on top of steamed rice, or tossed through pasta (use the red pepper sauce as the pasta sauce!)

  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Category: meat
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: american

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 350g
  • Calories: 393
  • Sugar: 10.9g
  • Sodium: 2011.2mg
  • Fat: 16.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 19.5g
  • Fiber: 3.8g
  • Protein: 41.1g
  • Cholesterol: 119.1mg

Welcome!

I’m Kate, the creator behind Dished. I love creating flavour packed, simple (ish) recipes for you, designed for every day and special occasions.

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