Meatballs with Pomegranate-Tomato Sauce Over Bulgur

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time:  25 minutes Cook Time:  35 minutes

Meatballs with Pomegranate-Tomato Sauce Over Bulgur

The sweet-tartness of pomegranate molasses gives this tomato sauce the lip-smacking quality of a barbecue sauce. It pairs well with beef and lamb. If you don’t have bulgur, serve the meatballs and sauce with spaghetti, for a Middle Eastern twist on the regional favorite, Cincinnati chili and spaghetti.


Pomegranate-Tomato Sauce:

¼ cup olive oil

1 large sweet onion, peeled and roughly  diced

1 cup tomato paste

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, San Marzano strongly preferred 

1½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 tablespoon pomegranate vinegar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Juice and zest of 2 limes

1½  teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



4 cups Brown Veal Stock or store-bought, low-sodium beef broth

1¾ cup medium-grain bulgur



3 pounds ground beef

1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs

½ cup finely ground pita chips  (see Kitchen Tips) or bread crumbs

4 cups Brown Veal Stock or store-bought, low-sodium beef broth


  1. Preheat the oven to 385°F. Spray a large casserole dish or lasagna pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and set aside.
  2. Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring and shaking the pan for about 10 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, lime juice and zest, salt, and pepper and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is hot.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the bulgur: In a large saucepan, heat the veal or beef stock over high heat, covered, until it comes to a boil. Add the bulgur and cook for 5 minutes. Cover, remove from the heat and let it steam in the pot for 8 to 12 minutes to finish cooking.
  4. Prepare the meatballs: In a mixing bowl, combine the beef, cumin, salt, pepper, eggs, and ground pita crumbs. With your clean hands, mix to fully combine, but do not overwork. Then use a scoop or your hands form balls about 1½ inches in diameter. Place in the prepared casserole dish, arranging the meatballs so they just touch each other. Add the stock to the bottom of the pan, pouring it in between the meatballs, until it reaches about a quarter of the way up the meatballs. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 7 to 10 minutes longer, until the meatballs are cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, purée the sauce with an immersion blender until smooth. It will be very thick. Reserve the sauce in the pan. (If you wish, you can do this in a food processor, working in batches if necessary and being careful if the sauce is hot. Return the sauce to the pan.)
  6. When the meatballs are done, transfer them to a platter and keep warm, reserving the cooking liquid. Drain the meatball cooking liquid into the sauce. Stir over high heat until the mixture  comes to a boil.
  7. Spoon the bulgur into a serving bowl, arrange the meatballs on top, spoon the sauce over them, and serve.

Kitchen Tips

  1. I like to use pita chips ground in a food processor for this recipe because they are drier than bread crumbs and have that distinctive pita flavor.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.