Albondigas or albondiguillas are the delish Spanish version of meatballs, which can be made either with pork, veal, beef or a mixture of any of the above-mentioned minced meats. Once coated in flour they are fried and then simmered in a sauce usually made of onion, garlic, tomato and wine or brandy. You will be able to find this tapa almost in any traditional bar throughout our country.
Historians do not agree when it comes to defining the origin of this recipe. Some may say that it is of Arab origin while others claim that its origin it to be found in Medieval Europe, or even in The Roman Empire of Apicius.
According to the Spanish Royal Academy of Language, the word albóndiga comes from the Arabic word bunduqah which in turn originates in the Greek term pontikón meaning “walnut”. If we add that most of the countries in the Middle East include a dish made with meatballs in their traditional recipes then we will have fewer doubts about its origin.
We are definitely sure that one can find albóndigas in almost every traditional daily lunch menu in bars. They are served with French fries as a main course or as a tapa. Anyway, be ready to enjoy these tiny balls of savory meat covered in a simple, luscious and silky sauce.
- 2 tablespoons (16 g) garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 cup (240 g) onion, minced
- 1 cup (250 ml) veal stock, divided
- 4 slices of bread (50 g),
- 1 pound (500 g) minced veal
- ¼ pound (125 g) minced lean pork
- ¼ pound (125 g) minced pork belly
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 tablespoons of parsley, minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Olive oil
- 1 ½ tablespoons (12 g) garlic, minced
- 1 cup (240 g) onion, minced
- ½ cup (125 ml) pureed tomatoes
- ½ cup (125 ml) dry white wine or brandy
- 3 ½ cups (875 ml) veal stock, divided
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and freshly black ground pepper
- Fry the garlic over high heat in a frying pan with the olive oil and add the onion. Turn down the heat to low and poach it for five or seven minutes.
- Add half of the stock to the frying pan and let it evaporate completely. Set aside.
- Soak the slices of bread (without crust) in the remaining stock and squeeze out the excess stock.
- Put the minced meats in a bowl and add the poached onion, the soaked bread, the beaten eggs and the parsley. Mix all together by hand or with a wooden spoon.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Shape into meatballs (about 25 g each) and coat them in flour taking care to rest the meatballs in the flour dish no more than a few seconds.
- Shake each meatball to remove excess flour and heat some olive oil in a saucepan.
- Fry them in batches until golden-brown all over. Take them out of the saucepan using a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Heat a pair of olive oil tablespoons to high temperature in a saucepan and fry the garlic until almost golden-pale. Add the onion, turn down the heat to low and let it poach for five or seven minutes.
- Add the pureed tomato, mix and let it cook until the oil starts to separate from the vegetables.
- Turn up the heat to high, add a half cup of stock and the wine and let the liquid evaporate completely on high heat.
- Add the albondigas and the bay leaf to the saucepan.
- Pour the remaining veal stock and let the albondigas simmer for 15 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Turn off the heat and let them rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Tips for perfect albondigas or Spanish meatballs
- You can make these delicious meatballs using only beef or only pork, or a mix of both types of meats.
- Do not forget to add some fat like bacon or pork belly to the minced meat. The albóndigas will be juicier and more tender.
- I like to add a tablespoon and a half (50 g) of minced Spanish cured ham fat (Iberian ham works best) to improve the flavor of meatballs. If you have the chance to get that marvelous cured ham fat do not hesitate to include it in the ingredients of this recipe.
- You can use either sliced bread, white bread crumbs or fine dry breadcrumbs to give a tender texture to the meatballs. The first two may need to be soaked in a liquid —stock, broth or milk would be perfect—.
- Use either veal, beef or vegetable stock. Water can be used instead of the stock but the result will not be as rich.
- You may find that some recipes call for diced green Italian peppers for the sauce. If you like you can add a pepper to the onion.
- Spanish cooks love to use wine or brandy for many traditional savory recipes. Feel free to use the one you prefer or the one you have got at hand.
- You might find that some albondiguillas recipes call for flour to thicken the sauce. We deem that unnecessary because the flour coated meatballs will thicken the sauce enough.
- If you use brandy, flambé it as soon as it gets hot, but if you use wine always allow it to evaporate at high temperature in order to get rid of the alcohol.
- We love using Sherry, a fortified wine from Andalusia, which gives a unique flavor especially when it is an aged wine like “Oloroso“ or “Palo Cortado“. We encourage you to try any of these two types of Sherries in the sauce, because you will end up having an exquisite albondiguillas dish.
Garnish these toothsome albondigas with chopped parsley and some French fries or fried diced potatoes. Do not forget to serve this tapa along with glasses of red wine and some slices of spongy crumb bread: one should wipe the plate with bread to absorb the sauce —even if it is not a very refined habit—, but believe me, Spaniards know how to do that with grace.