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Spanish Meatballs (Albondigas Tapas)

Spanish Meatballs (Albondigas Tapas)

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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).

They are meant to be appetizer or snack portions and are often eaten with a toothpick or on individual small plates.

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 parts of eating the albondigas is scooping up the delicious remaining tomato sauce with crusty bread.

Spanish Albondigas - Spanish Meatballs

Spanish Albondigas –  Delicious Spanish Meatballs

What are Tapas?

For those not familiar with the concept of tapas, they are small plates 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, which 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. 

Some tapas bars specialize in much more elaborate “snacks”. Here, don’t expect freebies –  you’ll be paying for the quality.

Spanish Albondigas Tapas Meatballs

At these establishments, no menu is necessary. The various tapas options are displayed on trays or under glass on the counter.

Spanish Tapas

A sampling of Barcelona’s Spanish Tapas

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.

Spanish Meatballs (Spanish Albondigas)

Spanish Meatballs – via toothpick!

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 would always have been one of the choices for us.

These days, we’re not always within easy reach of a tapas bar. Fortunately, Spanish-style meatballs are very easy to make for the home cook.

What to serve with Spanish Meatballs

Albondigas should be served along with smoky tomato sauce (recipe below).

You can serve these small meatballs as an appetizer, as a side dish, or main course. Better yet, you can serve them as part of your own homemade tapas menu! Don’t leave out some of the other most popular tapas dishes, such as Patatas Bravas or Chorizo in Red Wine, along with a nice pitcher of Spanish Sangria.

Check out our additional Spanish Tapas recipes:

Yield: 6 servings

Spanish Albondigas - Spanish Meatballs

Spanish Tapas: Albondigas

Spanish Meatballs are a perfect tapas menu item - the "albondigas" are finished in a smoky tomato sauce, making this an addictive snack.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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 or chicken stock
  • 1 cup (237 ml) olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Smoky Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)

Instructions

  1. Mince garlic, onions, and parsley in a food processor or blender. The idea is to get the flavor of these ingredients to permeate the meatballs, not to have chunks of onion or garlic in the meatballs.
  2. Mix beef, pork, garlic, onion, eggs, cheese, wine, and parsley in a large bowl, until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Fold in the breadcrumbs, adding water to keep the consistency very moist, but still able to form balls that will hold their shape.
  4. Roll the meatball mixture into balls approximately one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
  5. Brown the meatballs either in a large frying pan over medium heat or on a baking sheet in the oven.
  6. Cook the meatballs only until browned, not fully cooked. Remove from pan.
  7. Add meatballs to the sauce, and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until fully cooked.
  8. Serve on small plates for tapas portions.

Notes

Meatballs can be frozen before or after finishing them in the sauce.

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 164Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 91mgSodium 123mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 0gSugar 1gProtein 11g
Yield: 6 servings

Smoky Tomato Sauce

Spanish Albondigas - Spanish Meatballs

Smoky tomato sauce to accompany our Spanish Meatballs. The sauce is made with fresh and canned tomatoes, with the unique flavor of smoked paprika adding an additional traditional Spanish flavor.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Finely chop onion, garlic and tomatoes. Heat olive oil in a large pot to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
  2. Add the garlic, stirring until the onions are translucent
  3. Add the red wine, red pepper flakes, and paprika, and bring to a simmer
  4. Add stock and canned and fresh tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and then drop the heat to barely bubbling.
  5. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes.
  6. You can continue to allow it to simmer for up to one hour for a thicker sauce.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste after the sauce has reached your desired consistency.

Notes

Optional: Add a ½ teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to add sweetness.

You can also use a blender if you like a smoother sauce.

Nutrition Information

Yield

6

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 135Total Fat 12gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 0mgSodium 93mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 1g
 

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