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Recipe: Nine-Ten’s Lamb Meatballs

“Each time we’ve tried to do something different depending on the season, the guests demand the original version," says Executive Chef Jason Knibb.


Chef Jason Knibb shares the recipe for a longtime crowd-pleaser

Posted June 17, 2020

“These lamb meatballs have been on our bar menu for as long as I can remember,” says Executive Chef Jason Knibb of La Jolla’s Nine-Ten Restaurant & Bar. “Each time we’ve tried to do something different depending on the season, the guests demand the original version. So, it has really become a Nine-Ten staple. The combination of the lamb and pork make for a very rich, and addictive, experience. Couple that with the sweetness of the raisins and you’ve got a dish you won’t soon forget. This dish also plays well to kids and would be great for a holiday party. It scales up pretty easily and looks beautiful.”



Nine-Ten’s Lamb Meatballs

For Tomato Sauce:

1 16-oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
3 whole yellow onions, small diced
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup sultana (golden) raisins

For Meatballs:

1½ lb. ground lamb
¼ lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp thyme, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
2 tsp anise seeds
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper, ground
Pinch red chili flakes
1 oz. vermouth
2 eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
1½ cups panko bread crumbs
2 pieces of day-old bread, torn into small pieces

Tomato Sauce:

1. In a medium sauce pot on low heat, add olive oil, sugar, salt, and bay leaf.
2. Add onions and sweat until tender, about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.
3. Once onions are tender, add the can of tomatoes. Simmer sauce until olive oil turns red.
4. Add pine nuts and raisins.


1. In a large mixing bowl, add eggs, milk, panko, and torn bread and mix well. Once mixed, add the rest of the ingredients to combine, being careful not to overmix. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, cook a small piece to check the seasoning, and adjust as needed.
2. Using a 2-oz. ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the meat mixture into balls. Lightly form and roll balls and place on a lined cookie sheet. Once all meatballs are formed, place in the refrigerator to firm up.
3. In a frying pan on medium-high heat, add a shallow layer of olive oil. Once oil is hot, add some of the meatballs. Don’t overcrowd the pan; work in batches. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Remove from pan and place on a plate or a tray, lined with a paper towel.
4. Add the cooked meatball to the tomato sauce and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Finish with some nice extra virgin olive oil and parsley. Serve with grilled bread or your favorite pasta.


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