I have no idea why these meatballs are called dawood basha. There was a Da’ud Basha in the Ottoman Empire – maybe he liked meatballs? Well, story goes that Da’ud Basha loved these meatballs so much, he ate them every day. I also read online that it is good luck to hide a silver ring in one of the meatballs. I am not a fan of hiding non-edible choking hazards in my food, so I skipped that step.
Nonetheless, dawood basha meatballs are not like your typical Italian meatballs. These are fiery, moist meatballs, stuffed with a few pine nuts, swimming in a light tomato based sauce flavored with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin. Delish!
The last time I made these, we had some hungry lawyers over that work with my husband. I thought I would treat them to a nice, home-cooked meal since they have been working so many long hours with a lot of takeout meals. When I opened the pot and said meatballs, there was not much excitement around the room. However, let’s just say that after everyone had their seconds and thirds, we had only 2 lonely meatballs as leftovers.
There are a few key things to remember when making dawood basha. First, you have to not only keep the meatballs moist, but they also have to be firm to withstand swimming in the sauce. One time, after I added the meatballs to the sauce, they disintegrated and I ended up with Bolognese sauce of sorts. Interesting, but not what I was going for. The added breadcrumbs and egg are great binders. Although I usually add freshly pureed tomatoes to my kafta, I omit them from the dawood basha because it just adds too much moisture.
Secondly, you can’t skimp on the pine nuts! Although it takes an extra second per meatball, it is well worth it to shove a few of those suckers into each meatball so that you get a bit of added texture with the toasty, delicious crunch you get when you bite into the meatball.
Lastly, if you like some added heat, feel free to add more cayenne or your favorite spice to either the meatball or to the sauce. The spice is what elevates these meatballs beyond their lame Italian counterpart. I use Simply Organic’s Spicy Steak Seasoning because it isn’t too spicy, yet it adds a nice kick to meat. However, feel free to just use a pinch of cayenne or crushed red pepper.