Meatballs with Okra

Nechama Rivlin

1 hour

4 servings

Meatballs with okra in a green Dutch oven atop a red tablecloth

Photography: Dan Peretz, Styling: Nurit Kariv

Photography: Dan Peretz, Styling: Nurit Kariv

The late first lady of Israel Nechama Rivlin had a deep passion for Jerusalem and its diverse flavors, many of which she adopted in her own kitchen. This recipe comes from an Iraqi-Jewish neighbor of hers.

On the back of the recipe card, Nechama notes that zucchini, green beans, peas, or leeks can be substituted for okra. If leeks are used, slice them into 1-inch / 2-cm segments and cook them 30 minutes — instead of the 20 minutes indicated in the recipe — before adding the meatballs.


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 14 ounces / 400 grams fresh okra, tops trimmed and washed
  • 1 small can of tomato paste (100 grams / 3.5 ounces)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 sweet green pepper (or red pepper)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • Water
  • For the meatballs:
  • 1 large onion, grated in the largest setting of a grater
  • 10 ounces / 300 grams ground beef
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons rice, raw
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and sugar. Saute the onions for 8 minutes until golden, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat if needed.
  2. Add the okra, mix, and saute for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and water, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the green peppers, parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and cover the okra with 3 cm / 1 in of water. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  4. Meanwhile, make the meatballs: Mix all the meatball ingredients in a wide bowl until combined. Form meatballs in the size of golf balls. Place the shaped meatballs onto a tray and cover with plastic wrap.
  5. Reduce the heat medium-low and gently place the meatballs into the okra and tomato sauce mixture. Cover the pot and cook for half an hour. Serve the meatballs and okra hot with a side of rice. Store the meatballs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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