Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

Carnatzlach (or karnatzlack) are delicious meatballs that look like little sausages without any casing.  They are kebabs when tightly squeezed onto a skewer. Carnat means fresh sausage in Romanian (probably from the Spanish “carne” meaning meat), and “lach” at the end of the word is the Yiddish word for little.

In 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain, the Sultan in Turkey invited them to come live in peace in his large Ottoman Empire.  Romania was a part of this empire for over 300 years.  The Sephardim brought their love for ground meat dishes and the Ottoman use of spices and grilling meats to Romania and Romanian Jews making aliyah to Israel have had an impact on the cuisine there as well.

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
15 grindings of fresh black pepper or ¼ teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon allspice, optional
1/4 cup club soda
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
1 pound ground beef (or ½ beef and ½ veal), not too lean
  1. Mix the garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, paprika and allspice in a 2 quart glass mixing bowl.  Add the club soda to the spices.  Set aside for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
  2. Add the parsley and the ground meat to the bowl and mix together using a fork and a soupspoon.  If you feel more comfortable using your hands to mix the ingredients, use your fingertips so meat won’t get tough.
  3. Wet your hands with a little water and then shape meat into 3 x 1 inch logs that are a little pointy on the ends (see Tidbit below). Do not make them too thin or they will fall apart.  Place on a plate.
  4. When ready to cook, either grill outside, in your oven under the broiler, or on a grill pan on the top of the stove. 
  5. Using long barbecue tongs and a metal spatula, turn the carnatzlach every 2 minutes or until all sides are browned. They should cook in 7-8 minutes, or less if you like them medium rare.

Tina Wasserman is the author of Entrée to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora and Entrée to Judaism for Families and is a visiting lecturer and scholar-in-residence throughout the country. She serves on the boards of ARZA and URJ Camp Newman, and is a member of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX. Her recipes can be found at Cooking and More and throughout, where she serves as food editor. Tina can be reached for congregational and organizational events through her website.

Additional Notes
  • In Israel the seasoned meat is firmly pressed in 3 x 1 inch lengths onto a flat skewer and then grilled as kebabs.
  • Carnatzlach often contain large amounts of garlic. This recipe has a lot but you could add even more if young and old will enjoy it.
  • Be very careful if you grill the meat on the stove. The club soda will make the carnatzlach splatter more than usual when they get hot.