Tuna Meatballs in Tomato, Eggplant, and Harissa Sauce

November 11, 2019 Updated: November 12, 2019

Inspired by the flavors of Sicily, I bring you this special dish. It’s made with fresh tuna belly, but would work just as well with ground beef or chicken. Lots of bold flavors come together in a comforting stew that hits the spot time and time again. —Leetal Arazi

Serves 6

For the sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup olive oil 
  • 5 cups peeled and diced eggplant
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons harissa, such as New York Shuk’s Signature Harissa
  • 2 tablespoons harissa dry spice mix, such as New York Shuk’s Herby Harissa
  • 1 28-ounce can tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Uzbek raisins (or any raisins you prefer or have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped

For the tuna meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 pound tuna belly, finely chopped (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
  • 3/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs 
  • 2 eggs, beaten 
  • 2 teaspoon Baharat
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Sunflower oil, for frying

For the sauce: Warm oil in a medium pot and add the diced eggplant. Cook until the eggplants are golden, for about 10–15 minutes. Add garlic, harissa, tomatoes, and water and mix. Bring to a boil. Taste and adjust salt at this point, then add raisins and basil. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, until the sauce comes together uniformly.

For the tuna meatballs: In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs. Form into approximately 25 small balls, and pan fry in sunflower oil until golden. (We just want to make sure they get the color, but we will continue cooking them in the sauce, so don’t worry about having them perfectly cooked at this stage. If you feel like ditching this frying stage, do it—I know I do sometimes, and the dish comes out just as tasty.)

Transfer meatballs to the sauce and continue cooking together for 15–30 minutes. Garnish with a handful of torn basil and pine nuts. Serve with rice, pasta, or just fresh bread.

Note: If you have a good relationship with your fishmonger, ask him to save you the tuna belly, as it makes the meatballs juicier, but any other cut would do as well. You can also replace the tuna with ground beef, chicken, or turkey.

Recipe courtesy of New York Shuk

Tunaballs
Meatballs nestled in their sauce, ready to simmer. (Maria Midoes for New York Shuk)
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