Moroccan Meatballs Inspired by 'A Street in Marrakech'

Moroccan Meatballs Inspired by 'A Street in Marrakech'

Wednesday, 13 November, 2019

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.


Twisty alleys, markets crowded with vendors, scampering trained monkeys, exotic spices, and world-class leather… to Westerners, Morocco can feel both magical and mysterious.

In the 1970s, American author and mother Elizabeth Warnock Fernea moved to Marrakech, Morocco, for a year with her professor husband and three children. She could never have imagined the adventures that awaited her in the twisting alleys of the city, and her experiences are recounted in her memoir A Street in Marrakech.

During her immersion in this foreign place, Farnock does her best to learn the culture, to become friends with the other women, and to find a sense of belonging. She is eventually invited to a neighborhood wedding and enjoys a traditional feast with her neighbors. With this recipe, you can enjoy a Moroccan meal of your own.

Morocco sits in the northwestern corner of Africa, and the influence of Arab and Moorish invaders can be tasted in the country’s traditional cuisine. Aromatic spices like cinnamon, cumin, and paprika are prevalent, along with herbs like mint and parsley. These meatballs are made with lamb, although you can substitute ground beef or even ground turkey, if you prefer. They’re seasoned with essential Moroccan spices, then simmered in tomatoes that cloak them in a sauce that evokes the aromas of the souk.

Moroccan Meatballs

Serves 2–4. Total time: 75 minutes



  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground lamb, beef, or turkey


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced

garnish: 1/4 cup roasted pistachios, chopped; fresh cilantro or parsley


Prep the meat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the parsley, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper with a fork. With your hands, crumble the lamb into the bowl and knead until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Roll the meatballs. Moisten your hands with water and shake to remove excess. Measure a level tablespoon of lamb and roll into a ball between your palms. Line up the meatballs on a baking sheet until it’s time to put them in the sauce.

Cook the sauce. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or pot. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook until the color darkens a bit, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, and parsley to the pan, and stir to combine.

Cook the meatballs. Bring the sauce to a boil, then gently place the meatballs in the skillet, cover, and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook 40 minutes covered, then remove the lid and cook an additional 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

This tastes great on a bed of mashed potatoes, steamed couscous, or rice (or cauliflower rice). To serve, pile the meatballs on your starch of choice, then sprinkle with pistachios and minced herbs.

This recipe is from our cookbook Well Fed, and it’s packed with other easy-to-make and crazy-delicious recipes from around the world.

This was no fairy tale, I told myself. We were alone, strange, and alien in a strange and alien world. — Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

A Street in Marrakech

by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea

When Elizabeth Warnock Fernea moves to Marrakech, Morocco for a year with her family, she has no idea of the challenges and adventures that awaited her in the twisting alleys of the city. She speaks Arabic and has rented a house in the medina (old town), but she and her family don’t fit in. They speak the wrong dialect of Arabic (Egyptian, not Moroccan), and while their home is built in the traditional style — a warren of rooms behind windowless walls that hide an internal courtyard — it’s much larger and more lavish than those of their neighbors. Despite their best intentions, everything about the family says ‘privilege’ and ‘western.’ {more}

This memoir (382 pages) was published in October of 1975 by Doubleday. The book takes you to Marrakech, Morocco. Melissa read A Street in Marrakech and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.


A Street in Marrakech


Photo by Adri Ramdeane.

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