Greek Meatballs with Orzo and Feta

This recipe is a Greek-inspired alternative to classic spaghetti and meatballs.

The meatballs are made with lean ground beef flavored with red onion, oregano and a pinch of cumin, then par-cooked in the oven and added to a simple tomato sauce seasoned with complementing flavors.

You could go the standard route and pair these meatballs with spaghetti, but we think they're best served over a flavorful bed of orzo and topped with a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese.

For maximum flavor, we like to toast our dry orzo in a little olive oil, then prepare it using the same method you'd use to make risotto. Check our recipe notes for complete instructions.

What Do You Know About Feta Cheese?

Feta cheese is a soft, brined cheese with a tangy, mildly salty flavor and crumbly texture. Traditionally made with sheep's milk or goat's milk, it's a prominent ingredient in Greek cuisine.

Feta is often used as a topping in dishes like this one and almost always included in a classic Greek salad.

If possible, buy your feta in a block along with its brine and crumble it as needed for your recipes.

Greek Meatballs with Orzo and Feta

Greek Meatballs with Orzo and Feta

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Served over orzo and topped with crumbled feta cheese, these meatballs are flavored with Greek-style ingredients, baked, then simmered in tomato sauce until tender.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish the dish:

  • 1/2 lb orzo, cooked (see below)
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and coat a shallow baking pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Place the ground beef, egg, red onion, parsley and breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl. Add the salt, oregano, cumin and black pepper and combine well.
  3. Form the beef mixture into 1-1/4 inch meatballs (makes about 1 dozen) and arrange them on the prepared baking pan.
  4. Bake just until browned on the outside, 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. While the meatballs bake, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion and sauté until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and continue cooking until softened, about 2 minutes longer. Stir in the tomatoes, oregano and cumin and cook for 5 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the meatballs, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. To finish the dish, divide the orzo between 4 plates, top with meatballs and spoon some sauce over each portion. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Notes

Step By Step: The Best Way To Cook Orzo

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large (preferably nonstick) skillet over medium heat. Add 8 ounces of dry orzo and stir until thoroughly coated with the oil.
  2. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until a good portion of the orzo is lightly toasted, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in 1-1/2 cups of water or low-sodium chicken broth. Cover, reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Although it will most likely still be too firm, check the orzo for doneness. Add another 1/4 to 1/3 cup of liquid, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed again, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  5. Repeat the process, adding liquid in 1/4 cup increments until the orzo is al dente. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.