A touch of cinnamon distinguishes these delicious tomato-sauced meatballs. Adding whole-grain bulgur allows you to use less meat, resulting in meatballs with less than half the total fat and saturated fat of the original. Plus a vibrant-tasting combination of fresh and canned tomatoes in the sauce helps reduce the sodium by two-thirds. Serve with pasta, polenta or even on a whole-grain roll with a bit of melted part-skim mozzarella for a meatball sub.

Patsy Jamieson
Source: EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2008


Recipe Summary

2 hrs


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Place bulgur in a medium bowl and cover generously with hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain in a fine sieve, pressing to remove excess liquid.

  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Stir in canned tomatoes and plum tomatoes; increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Partially cover and let simmer while you prepare meatballs.

  • Place bread in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for a few minutes. Drain and squeeze out moisture.

  • Whisk egg and egg white in a large bowl. Add the bulgur, the bread, beef, Parmesan, cinnamon, pepper and salt. Gently combine with a potato masher and/or your hands. Form into 20 oval meatballs about 2 inches long.

  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; blot with paper towels. Brown the remaining meatballs.

  • Mash the simmering tomato sauce with a potato masher to break down any large chunks of tomato. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Simmer over low heat, partially covered, for 50 minutes.

  • Taste the sauce and add sugar, if it seems tart, and additional pepper to taste. Serve the meatballs with the sauce.


Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Shopping Tip: Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and coarsely grinding or cracking wheat berries. Unlike cracked wheat, it simply needs a quick soak in hot water for most uses. Look for bulgur in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets, near other grains, or online at kalustyans.com or buylebanese.com.

Nutrition Facts

285 calories; protein 22.7g 45% DV; carbohydrates 22.3g 7% DV; exchange other carbs 1.5; dietary fiber 4.1g 16% DV; sugars 8.6g; fat 11.3g 17% DV; saturated fat 3.7g 18% DV; cholesterol 70.2mg 23% DV; vitamin a iu 1894.8IU 38% DV; vitamin c 42.8mg 71% DV; folate 20.5mcg 5% DV; calcium 127.9mg 13% DV; iron 3.3mg 19% DV; magnesium 44.9mg 16% DV; potassium 450.8mg 13% DV; sodium 663.5mg 27% DV; thiamin 0.1mg 8% DV.

Reviews (6)

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6 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 5
  • 4 star values: 1
  • 3 star values: 0
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
Wonderful!!! Wasn't sure about the meatballs with cinnamon added but it all came together deliciously... the sauce was fantastic & so fresh & different from scratch recipe. We had creamy polenta & roasted zucchini with it. Jacqueline Buffalo NY Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Good recipe however the meatballs could stand to be kicked up a few notches. I would add some salt and a little cayene pepper to the meat mixture next time. Possibly even sub half the beef for hot italian sausage. I made the meatballs as written but only made half the amount of sauce thinning it a little with beef broth and it was plenty. I used crushed tomatoes instead of stewed and some Panko breadcrumbs I had on hand instead of the wheat bread cubes. The sauce was a little bitter possibly because my fresh tomatoes were not ripe but the sugar at the end helped. I served it with some pan-seared polenta slices. Chandra Seattle WA Read More
Rating: 5 stars
I found after reading over the ingredients that there seemed to be at least according to my taste a disparity in the ratio of the sauce to the amount of meatballs. I adjusted this to my thinking. I also adjusted the cooking times and cooked longer at a simmer. Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Very Satisfying I was a little skeptical of the bulgur and the cinnamon but I really loved these meatballs. The texture was good the taste was great and they are substantial meatballs not those little cocktail size meatballs. I used an immersion blender to mash the tomatoes rather than the potato masher as we like out sauce more smooth than chunky. I served this with whole wheat spaghetti and a green salad. Pros: Size of Meatballs Read More
Rating: 5 stars
I thought the meatballs were good but I don't know if I'd make them again. They required quite a bit of work. Not sure that they were two hours of cooking good. Sarah ND Read More
Rating: 5 stars
We have tried a couple of other healthy meatball/meatloaf recipes and this is the best so far. The one thing we changed was we used an extra can of tomatoes and no fresh tomatoes. I think the fresh tomatoes would have added some great flavors. The process was very time consuming. This will not go into our "main menu" but to the special occasions menu simply because of the time factor. Read More