Moroccan Meatball Tagine with Couscous

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

This dish is terrific for company in the sukkah. Incorporating the fall vegetables, pumpkin or butternut squash, with the sweetness of the raisins and prunes makes this a delicious addition to your holiday meal. In addition, the tagine tastes even better the next day and is easily portable outside to the sukkah in its casserole dish.

1 1⁄2 pounds ground beef
1⁄2 medium onion, grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 egg
1⁄2 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1⁄2 cup tomato sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
5 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 quart water
1⁄2 cup dark raisins
8-12 soft pitted prunes
1⁄2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
2 pounds of pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups)
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1⁄2 cups water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup couscous

For the Tagine

  1. Place the meat in a 2-quart mixing bowl and add the grated onion, parsley, egg, bread crumbs, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Mix well and set aside until ready to make the meatballs.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onions in the oil until golden brown and caramelized.
  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, about 10-15 minutes. 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 the meatballs, onions, and liquid to a 13 x 9-inch casserole.
  7. Drain the raisins and prunes and add them to the casserole 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 couscous.

For the Couscous

  1. Bring liquid and margarine to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan.
  2. Add the couscous and stir to combine. Immediately cover and turn off the heat.
  3. Allow the couscous to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Place in the middle of a large casserole or serving platter with the meat and vegetables around it, or serve separately from a bowl.
Additional Notes
  • Caramelizing the onions means cooking the onions until the natural sugars in the onions starts to turn brown. In this recipe, if the onions aren't a distinctive brown, the gravy will not be well balanced in flavor and will have little color. The onions will not caramelize if cooked with water or another vegetable in high water content.
  • When making meatballs, do not squeeze the meat together heavily or the meatballs will be very tough.
  • Microwaving dried fruit or beans in water for 3 minutes is the equivalent of soaking for 1 hour in warm water.
  • To make this kosher for Passover, substitute quinoa for the couscous, and matzah meal for the bread crumbs.