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Rista (Spiced Lamb Meatballs With Spicy Red Sauce)

Rista_web_Photograph by Linda Xiao

Another staple of the Kashmiri wazwan celebration, rista is the Kashmiri version of spaghetti and meatballs—but the meatballs, bathed in a fiery red chile sauce, are made of spiced lamb and fried onions, and instead of spaghetti, they are served over cumin-laced rice. Like many of the staples from the wazwan feast, rista is sometimes served at Kashmiri street stalls where a small tin bowl is filled with rice, topped with a meatball and a spoonful of red sauce. Rista is a crowd pleaser, delighting children and adults alike, and is a festive dish to serve at dinner parties with a side of naan. Ground beef can be substituted for the lamb if you prefer, and the meatballs and sauce can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated in a covered container.

Rista_web_Photograph by Linda Xiao

Rista (Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Spicy Red Sauce)

Maneet Chauhan
Prep Time 45 minutes
Course Dinner, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people


For the meatballs

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup store-bought ginger-garlic paste
  • 8 serrano chiles, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • Leaves of 1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the sauce

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 black cardamon pod
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup store-bought ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri or other red chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Leaves of 1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Kosher salt


Make the meatballs

  • In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until deeply caramelized in color and slightly crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. If the onion starts to scorch, reduce the heat to medium.
  • In a small bowl and using the back of a spoon, mash together the ginger-garlic paste and the green chiles until incorporated (the chiles will remain chunky). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and mix in the lamb, fried onions, and cilantro until well blended. Stir in the salt. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (you will end up with about 12 meatballs).
  • Line a plate with paper towels. In a sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over high heat, about 4 minutes. Add the meatballs and fry them until they are golden brown on all sides and cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer them to the paper towels and set aside.

Make the sauce

  • Using a spice grinder, blend the cumin, black and green cardamom, nutmeg, and peppercorns into a coarse powder. Transfer to a small bowl and mash in the ginger-garlic paste.
  • In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onions and cook until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the red chile powder, turmeric, cilantro, bay leaves, tomatoes, and tomato paste and cook until the spices are aromatic, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 7 minutes. Season with salt, add 1 cup water, and stir until a gravy is formed, 12 to 14 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer gently until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the meatballs to the sauce in a single layer, cover the pan, and cook for 5 minutes to warm the meatballs through. Roll the meatballs around once or twice during the cooking process to ensure they are evenly coated by the sauce.
  • Serve with rice.


Reprinted with permission from Chaat by Maneet Chauhan and Jody Eddy copyright © 2020. Photographs by Linda Xiao. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Keyword Lamb, Meatballs

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