When we visit any of our favorite tapas bars in Spain, one of my go-to choices is Spanish Meatballs (in Spanish, albondigas). Albondigas
Tapas are similar to Italian meatballs, but the Spanish meatballs are smaller (about 1 inch in diameter) and are meant to be appetizer or snack portions. They are often eaten with a toothpick.
These tapas meatballs are usually served in a smoky tomato sauce. The unique flavor comes from the addition of smoked paprika. One of the best part of eating the albondigas is scooping up the delicious remaining tomato sauce with crusty bread.
What are Tapas?
For those not familiar with concept of tapas, they are small snacks served with drinks at bars in Spain. It is said that a Spanish king declared that all drinks would be served with food, to prevent workers from getting too inebriated during their midday meal.
This food would typically be a piece of bread with some ham, that was usually served free of charge atop a glass of wine.
Today, you can still find bars that provide free tapas – typically in local neighborhoods. These free options are typically very basic, and in my experience, not very good.
There are also tapas bars that specialize in much more elaborate “snacks”. Here, don’t expect freebies – you’ll be paying for the quality.
At these establishments, no menu is necessary. The various tapas options are displayed on trays or under glass on the counter.
We typically start by ordering our glass of wine, sangria, or tinto de verano. Then we “window shop” up and down the bar to see what’s on offer. We’ll then point to a few delicious looking options and the bartender will prepare a plate.
Some of our favorite tapas joints are self-serve, with color coded toothpicks indicating the price. When you’ve had your fill of wine and snacks, you simply bring up your toothpicks for your bill to be calculated.
And of course, if Spanish meatballs were one of the options, that will always have been one of choices for us.
These days, we’re not always within easy reach of a tapas bar. Fortunately, Spanish meatballs are very easy to make at home. You can serve these as an appetizer, as a side dish, or even as part of your own home-made tapas menu!
Check out some of our other Spanish recipes:
- 1 pound (454 grams) ground beef
- 1 pound (454 grams) ground pork
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 medium onion
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup (100 grams) Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons (12 grams) fresh, finely chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 cups (66 grams) bread crumbs
- 1/2 (118 ml) cup red wine
- 1 cup (237 ml) water
- 1 cup (237 ml) olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Smoky Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
- Mince garlic, onions, and parsley in a food processor or blender. The idea is get the flavor of these ingredients to permeate the meatballs, not to have chunks of onion or garlic in the meatballs.
- Mix beef, pork, garlic, onion, eggs, cheese, wine and parsley in a large bowl, until thoroughly mixed.
- Fold in the breadcrumbs, adding water to keep the consistency very moist, but still able to form balls that will hold their shape.
- Form meatballs into balls approximate one inch in diameter.
- Brown the meatballs either in a frying pan, on a baking sheet in the oven.
- Cook the meatballs only until browned, not fully cooked. Remove from pan.
- Add meatballs to sauce, and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until fully cooked.
Meatballs can be frozen before or after finishing them in the sauce.
Amount Per Serving Calories 164Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 91mgSodium 123mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 0gSugar 1gProtein 11g
- 1 can (14 oz or 400 grams) crushed tomatoes
- 2 whole Roma tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 large onion
- 1/8 cup or 75 ml olive oil
- 1/4 cup or 125 ml red wine
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- pinch red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Finely chop onion, garlic and tomatoesHeat olive oil in large pot to medium heatAdd onions, cooked for 2 minutes, stirring
- Add garlic, stirring until onions are translucent
- Add red wine, red pepper flakes, and paprika, and bring to a simmer
- Add stock and canned and fresh tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and then drop the heat to barely bubbling.
- Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
- You can continue to allow it to simmer for up to one hour for a thicker sauce.
- Add salt and pepper to taste after the sauce has reached your desired consistency.
Optional: Add a ½ teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to add sweetness.
You can also use a blender if you like a smoother sauce.
Amount Per Serving Calories 135Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 0mgSodium 93mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 1g