Recipe Corner: Armenian Stuffed Meatballs From In The Vintage Kitchen


This recipe was originally published in the 1971 edition of the New York Times International Cook Book, and was reprinted on January 8, 2020 at In The Vintage Kitchen food blog.

“Armenia is the birthplace of the apricot and home to the oldest winery in the world, dating back 6,000 years,” says Katherine Barber at the In The Vintage Kitchen food blog. “Yerevan predates Rome, and is considered one of the oldest inhabited capital cities in the world. Armenia’s traditional cuisine has been influenced and enhanced by its surrounding neighbors, giving Armenian cuisine a blend of Russian, Turkish, Georgian and Mediterranean flavors Our mission at In The Vintage Kitchen is to bring new life to old recipes, forgotten cookbooks, historic kitchen tools, and basic cooking techniques from the 1800’s to the 1970’s. We learn about food, where it came from, and how it came to be in our lives today,” she adds.

This version of the popular Armenian stuffed meatball or kufta (or kufteh) is made with lamb stuffed inside another meat ball, also made of lamb, and cooked in beef broth. Each batch of meatballs, Katherine says, is made with a different blend of ingredients – one vegetable laden, the other grain laden.

“This recipe offers two alternatives for the bulgur, couscous and quinoa, both of which are available in Middle Eastern markets, and both substituted with the same one to one ratio. Couscous is a small, granular pasta made of semolina flour and contains gluten. Quinoa is actually a small seed that is cooked and eaten in a similar manner to most grains, but it’s gluten-free and relatively high in protein.”

Homemade Beef Stock and Armenian Stuffed Meatballs

There’s no getting around the fact that preparing this kufta is time-consuming, but the results are delicious, a true feast for any occasion.

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Homemade Beef Stock

4-5 lbs. beef short ribs or beef soup bones

2 leeks, trimmed, split and washed well

2 medium carrots, trimmed and scraped

2 medium ribs celery, cut in half

1 medium onion stuck with two cloves

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon peppercorns

Place the beef short ribs in a large kettle and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and blanch about 5-10 minutes, then drain and run under cold water. Return beef short ribs to the kettle, and add remaining ingredients. Add more cold water to cover, and simmer, uncovered, for about 3 hours. Skim surface as the stock cooks to remove fat and scum. Strain and set aside.

Armenian Stuffed Meatballs

For the stuffing (filling):

1 lb. lean ground lamb

4 medium onions, sliced or diced

1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, to taste

1/4 teaspoon chopped mint, to taste

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the meatballs:

1 lb. very lean ground lamb

1 cup fine bulgur (cracked wheat) or 1 cup quinoa or 1 cup couscous

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley


4 cups boiling beef stock


Note: Other traditional seasonings for this recipe may include: cumin, coriander, allspice, cloves, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika. Pine nuts or chopped walnuts may be added to the stuffing.


To make the stuffing, sauté the lamb over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the green pepper, parsley, and mint, and cook 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 minutes. Chill stuffing for at least 2 hour or longer. After it is chilled, shape into the size of marbles (about 1 teaspoonful for each).

To make meatballs, combine the meat, bulgur, salt, pepper, onions, and parsley and knead mixture as you would dough, adding a few drops of water as you go along. Knead mixture well for 20 minutes until mixture is like a medium soft dough.

Dip hands in a bowl of cold water and make balls the size of walnuts. Make a dent in the middle of each ball with your thumb and press all around the inside wall to make a round opening for the filling. The wall should be fairly thin Place marble-sized filling in each shell and bring the edges together to close. Smooth surface with wet fingers, and flatten slightly by gently pressing between the palms.

Drop meatballs into boiling stock and cook for 10 minutes or until meat balls come to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain excess liquid. Keep warm until all are cooked. This dish is traditionally served with rice or bulgur pilaf or in a shallow bowl of broth like a soup.

Serve with pita bread, yogurt, hummus, and garnish with lemon wedges and sprigs of parsley. (Made smaller and in the shape of mini-footballs, these meatballs may be fried and served as appetizers.)

Makes 22-24 meatballs.

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