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Moroccan Meatball Tagine with Quinoa “Couscous”

Tina Wasserman
Moroccan Meatballs recipe for the Jewish holiday of Pesach

Couscous - a fine, semolina wheat pasta - is not kosher for Passover. A good substitute is quinoa, which is not a grain but a member of the “goose foot” family that includes beets and spinach. While quinoa is not indigenous to the old world, it nevertheless resembles the Moroccan national dish in size and shape.

1 1⁄2 pounds ground beef
1⁄2 medium onion, grated
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 egg
1⁄2 cup matzo meal
1⁄2 cup tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
4 large onions, thinly sliced
1 quart water
1⁄2 cup dark raisins
12 soft pitted prunes
1⁄2 cup slivered almonds
2 pounds of pumpkin, Butternut or Hubbard squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Quinoa:
1 1⁄2 cups water or chicken broth
1 cup quinoa
  1. Place the meat in a 2-quart mixing bowl. Add the onion, parsley, egg, matzo meal, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven (a 4- to 6-quart pan with two small handles that can be used either on the stove or in the oven). Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onions until they’re golden brown.
  3. Add the water to the onions and bring to a boil.
  4. Shape the meat into walnut-sized balls and drop into the simmering liquid. Cook the meatballs until firm. Do not stir until the meatballs are set.
  5. If the raisins and prunes are not soft and moist, combine them in a small glass dish and cover with water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes and let sit while the meatballs cook.
  6. When the meatballs are firm, transfer them with the onions to a 13" x 9" casserole.
  7. Add the fruits (drained) along with the almonds and pumpkin. Cover with foil, dull side out.
  8. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 40 minutes. Sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon and continue baking, uncovered, until the squash is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed (about another 20 minutes). Serve with quinoa.

For the Quinoa:

  1. Rinse the quinoa in a bowl of cold water. Pour into a fine strainer and then run cold water through it again (to remove any bitter residue).
  2. Bring the water or broth to a boil and add the quinoa. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, until the quinoa is al dente and you can see the ring of germ (a thin, squiggly line around each grain). Drain thoroughly. Place in the middle of a large serving platter with the meat and vegetables around it, or serve from a bowl for all to take.
Tina's Tidbits: 

  • When substituting matzo meal for bread crumbs in a recipe, you can avoid a “too tough” result by using approximately 3⁄4 the amount of matzo meal (matzo meal tends to absorb a great deal more moisture than bread crumbs).