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Mini Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce – Spanish Style

mini meatballs recipe

One of my favorite dishes is Spanish meatballs – Albóndigas; the kind that one finds in tapas restaurant.  My husband and I went to Madrid and Valencia a few years ago, and I found out for the first time, that many bars in Spain provide free tapas dishes!  I loved the meatballs that were served in one of those bars – fried and braised in a simple yet delicious tomato sauce.

So I was happy to find a Spanish restaurant near Hackischer Markt in Berlin, where they serve authentic Spanish tapas (not for free though unfortunately!). We had Albóndigas and Canary potatoes on our last visit, and the combination was divine!  So, I try to recreate this yummy dish: instead of using only minced beef, I add also mince bacon as I think the bacon will add a softer texture to the meatballs.  You can serve the meatballs hot but I find they taste even better when warm, or reheated after resting for a couple of hours, which allows the flavor to develop better.  The ingredients for the tomato sauce will make just enough sauce to coat the meatballs, which will give the whole dish an intense flavor.


(makes 40 mini balls)

For the meat balls:

  • 250g organic minced beef
  • 5 slice of streaky bacon, minced
  • 1 medium onion, peel and finely chop, use half (the other half for the tomato sauce)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, ground
  • 1 tsp. dry or fresh oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs
  • Plain flour for coating
  • Large pinch of Salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

  • 2 large or 6 small tomatoes
  • ½ of the remain finely chopped onion (from above)
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 heaped tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 wine glass of water
  • 1 bay leave
  • 2 cloves
  • A small pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

To make the meatballs, first heat a tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick pan.  Fry the onion for two minutes and add in the garlic slices, continue to fry until they are soft but not brown.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients (apart from the flour) and add the cool onion and garlic, mix well and then use your hands, work thoroughly with the mixture.  Prepare one plate with plain flour and set an extra one on the side. Form the mixtures into mini meatballs and roll them between your palms.  Lightly coat the balls with flour and set them on the extra plate.  After you are finished, you can rest the meatballs in the fridge between half an hour to an hour to allow them to firm up.  (You can of course cook them straight after they are formed. You just need to take extra care not to stir too hard when you fry them).

In the same frying pan you used earlier for the onion and garlic, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and then add the meatballs in a single layer (you can fry them in batches if the pan is not big enough).  Fry until the meatballs are evenly brown.  Remove the meatballs to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Now we make the tomato sauce: make a crossed incision on top of each tomato and put them in a large bowl, pour boiling water into the bowl to just cover the tomatoes.  Cover and stand for about 4 minutes then drain.  When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and squeeze out the pulps and seeds.  Set aside.

In another large non-stick pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add the other half of the chopped onion and then garlic.  Fry until soft, tip in the tomatoes, use the spatula to break up the flesh.  Add the tomato puree, water, then bay leave, cloves, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper.  Let it simmer for a couple of minute, check the seasoning.  Now add the meatballs, cover and simmer for another 5-8 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through, stir twice or three times during cooking (You can always add a splash of water if the sauce is getting a little bit too dry). Serve with boiled potatoes.

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