meatball stew | kift'it gu shirwah

kift'it gu shirwah

A couple weeks ago, in early April, I spent the day at the beach with my friend, Anita. We spent the afternoon hanging and talking in between reading and grading midterm papers. It was surreal driving home and seeing no leaves on the trees after spending a beautiful, 85 degree, sunny day by the water. This week, the trees are greener, everything is in bloom, and it's almost grape leaf season. But this week, in the meantime, it's been pretty chilly and rainy, which is perfect weather for one last cozy stew, like kifteh'it gu shirwah.

kift'it gu shirwah
kift'it gu shirwah

While kift'it gu shirwah is more traditionally eaten in the fall, it is a lovely, warming dish to enjoy during these last few chilly days of spring. It's got lots of bright vegetables and a lovely, light tomato broth. It doesn't feel heavy like most winter stews, but it's super filling and hearty, in a healthy way. The meatballs are made of ground beef and uncooked rice, which braise and steam as the stew cooks. The rice add a lovely texture to the meatballs and all of the flavors meld together as the dish cooks. Kift'it gu shirwah is really similar to kubbat shorba, but instead of wheat (bulgur or semolina), we use rice in the meatballs, so it's a nice gluten-free alternative.

kift'it gu shirwah
kift'it gu shirwah
kift'it gu shirwah
kift'it gu shirwah

Kift'it gu Shirwah

yield: about 6 servings
total time: 50 minutes
active time: 25 minutes

more kifteh: kift'it tkhuma and kifteh bake

Tomato sauce

1 tablespoon unsalted butter *
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, medium diced
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Place a 4 to 8 quart stockpot over medium-low heat. Melt the butter in the olive oil and add the diced onion. Cook the onions, stirring every minute or two, for about 8 minutes until they lightly brown.

  • Add the diced tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 12 minutes, until the tomatoes start to fall apart.


1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup minced light-green and white green onion parts (from about a bunch of green onions)
1/2 cup medium grain rice (e.g., Calrose)
1/2 cup packed minced parsley (from about 1/2 bunch)

  • While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare the meatballs: combine the ground beef, salt, pepper, minced green onions, short grain rice, and minced parsley. Shape the meatballs into about 25 small balls (about the size of ping pong balls).

Finishing the stew

3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 cups boiling water
1 green bell pepper, large dice
2 small or 1 large unpeeled zucchini, large dice

  • Add the lemon juice to the diced tomatoes, return the heat to high, and simmer for 2 minutes.

  • Add the meatballs to the tomatoes, top with the 2 cups of boiling water, cover and simmer for 2 minutes without stirring.

  • Gently stir the meatballs, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

  • Gently stir the meatballs, cover with the bell pepper and zucchini, reduce heat to low, and cook for another 15 minutes. The dish is done when the vegetables are soft and the meat and rice have cooked through to the center of the meatballs.

  • Adjust the seasoning and serve. If you eat some left over the next day, you should stir about 2 to 3 tablespoons of additional water into each serving immediately before reheating (let it sit for about 2 minutes, stir, and then serve). The rice absorbs a lot of the moisture overnight.

* Substitute olive oil to make this dairy free.

kift'it gu shirwah