One of my favorite dishes from my native country of Albania is Mint Meatballs made with ground beef. We call them qofte. These meatballs are usually fried but since having kids, I love to bake them because it seems a little healthier:).
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All About Qoftes (Meatballs)
Albanian Mint Meatballs with ground beef (or qofte) are a version of kofta. Koftas are known throughout Mediterranean, the Balkans, Middle East etc.
We usually make these meatballs with ground beef, however there are versions with lamb, chicken, vegetables etc. The most common method of cooking the meatballs is to fry them. However, I’m getting used to having them baked as well. My paternal grandma was from the city of Gjirokastra in Albania and she made the best fried qofte!!
How Do You Serve Qofte?
Qoftes (Albanian meatballs) are one of the most versatile dishes you can make. Typically we serve them with a big salad, a yogurt based dip, bread etc. However, in my house I remember sometimes my mom would bake potatoes and qofte simultaneously. See a similar dish here that shows baked potatoes with chorizos.
You can also serve these mint meatballs with spaghetti, either on their own or in a tomato based sauce.
The beverage of choice for most Albanians when eating these meatballs is local beer. If you get to visit Albania definitely give Birra Korça, Birra Tirana and Birra Stela a try:).
Tips & Notes
If you are going to make these meatballs baked, roll the dough in your hands to make a round shape like a ball. However, if you’ll fry them, make the ball shape then flatten it and coat it in flour before frying to preserve the shape and create a crispy surface.
Herbs – it’s very important to use fresh mint for these meatballs to give them that characteristic taste. You can use other herbs like parsley and oregano, those can be dry to fresh.
Ground Beef – while lean ground beef is healthier, if you want a bit more flavor in these meatballs, try to use some ground beef with fat in them. Sometimes, I try to mitigate by adding a tablespoon of olive oil. It helps so the meatballs don’t come out dry.
Bread crumbs – it’s important to add some bread crumbs to these mint meatballs. They help the meatballs not crumble and hold the shape. I love the balance they provide to the taste too. My grandma used to add 1 slice of bread in water before making meatballs, then squeeze it in her hand before adding to the bowl.
Baked Mint Meatballs – Albanian Qofte
- Food processor
- 1.5 lbs ground beef
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 bunch parsley about half cup chopped fresh parsley
- 7-8 mint leaves
- 1 red onion
- 0.5 cup bread crumbs or 1-2 slices of bread
- 5 garlic cloves if using minced garlic, use 1 tsp
- 0.5 tsp salt adjust to taste
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- Mince garlic, chop onion, chop parsley and mint.
- Mix thawed ground beef, eggs, olive oil, garlic, onion, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, parsley and mint together. Mix thoroughly until you create a dough like substance. Cover bowl with plastic.
- Refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors really mix together. Pre-heat oven to 400 degreed Fahrenheit
- Create small balls with your hands out of the dough. Line them up in a baking sheet. I prefer using parchment paper on the baking sheet.
- Bake for about 40 minutes. Let cool.
- Serve with salad and your side of choice. Garnish with additional mint leaves if desired. Enjoy:)
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More Albanian Recipes
Well, if you like Albanian recipes I have plenty of those:)). Here are some of them but there’s whole gallery you can choose from under Recipes tab.