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You may recognise these Spanish Meatballs from tapas menus around the world. They are bite-sized and tender and simmered in a beautifully flavoursome sauce of garlic, tomato, red wine and paprika. The great news is that you can make this beautiful snack or starter at home in just 30 minutes, without compromising on any of the taste!
What are they?
These traditional Spanish meatballs, known in Spain as albondigas (which literally means ‘meatballs’) are small meatballs cooked in a tasty tomato sauce. As they are a traditional tapas dish you’ll often see them served in those small brown clay dishes (cazuela) for sharing.
Mexico also has their own version of albondigas as well. These are a little different to the Spanish version as they are typically served in a thinner ‘soup’ and pack a little more spice.
What can I serve them with?
These meatballs are small and bite-sized, and they are intended to be eaten as a snack alongside a drink. In Spain dinner is typically eaten late, so tapas is often served around the evening-time when people finish work and visit their local bar or tavern.
You can serve these as a snack or appetizer, or you can serve these alongside a platter of other tapas dishes to make a You can eat these as a snack or appetizer, or you can serve them alongside a platter of other tapas dishes to make a more substantial meal.
A few great ideas include:
Of course, a glass of rioja on the side is a must!
What type of wine should I use?
While any variety of red wine will work in this recipe, Spain is home to some of the most popular and best wines in the world. So, for extra authenticity, reach for a bottle of Spanish red for this recipe. You’ll be spoilt for choice!
Ideally, opt for a full-bodied wine which will add more richness to the sauce. Typically, a wine with over 13.5% ABV is considered full-bodied. Rioja, an aged Tempranillo or Monastrell are all great choices.
If you are using wine from another country then cabernet sauvignon, shiraz or Malbec all work well too.
Can I substitute the wine?
You can substitute the wine if you prefer to not use alcohol products. Beef stock is a great alternative, or you could find an alcohol-free red wine.
However, the flavour will be the richest and most authentic if you use wine. So, if you are worried about the dish containing alcohol then don’t be – the alcohol in the wine evaporates during the cooking process.
Can I make them in advance?
These meatballs are great to make in advance which is perfect if you want to serve them when entertaining (and you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen). Keep them stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days and then reheat on the hob/stove. Add a splash of water to the sauce to loosen if needed.
You can also freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating.
Ingredients & Substitutions
For a full list of ingredients with weights and measurements jump to the printable recipe card.
For the meatballs
- Onion, diced
- Minced beef – alternatively you can use pork mince instead of beef, or a combination of the two.
- Dried breadcrumbs – traditionally this recipe uses fresh crumbs (although I like to use dried because it’s easier). If you want to use fresh breadcrumbs then reduce the amount by 1.5tbsp.
- Egg yolk
- Smoked paprika – you can substitute hot paprika for a little extra heat, or sweet for a sweeter flavour
- Finely chopped fresh parsley – substitute for dried parley in a pinch. If so, reduce the amount by half.
For the sauce
- Garlic, finely chopped
- Red wine
- Tinned chopped tomatoes
How to make them
For more detailed recipe steps with tips jump to the printable recipe card.
- Saute the onions in a large frying pan/skillet until soft.
- Transfer the onions to a large bowl and leave to cool. When cooled add the mince meat, breadcrumbs, egg yolk, Sauté the onions in a large frying pan/skillet until soft.
- Transfer the onions to a large bowl and leave to cool. When cooled add the beef, breadcrumbs, egg yolk, paprika and parsley and season well.
- Roll the mixture into meatballs, around the size of a walnut. Toss them in a little flour to coat.
- Return the meatballs to the pan and cook until browned all over. Set aside.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden.
- Add the tomatoes and red wine and stir everything together.
- Place the meatballs back in the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
Looking for more great Mediterranean recipes? Try:
- Roasted Mediterranean vegetables
- Spanish Chorizo pasta
- Chicken and chorizo paella
- Greek stuffed tomatoes
- Italian salsa verde
- Tabbouleh salad
Products that work well for this recipe:
Magnetic Spice Rack – Set of 12
Rustic Cazuela Clay Pans
These Spanish meatballs are bite-sized and tender, simmered in a beautifully flavoursome sauce of tomato, red wine and paprika.
The default recipe serves 5-6 as a snack (around 5 meatballs per person, 25-30 in total)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 500g / 1.1lb minced beef (ground beef) (see note 1)
- 30g / 1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika (see note 2)
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour
For the sauce:
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 400g / 14oz tinned chopped tomatoes
- 85ml / 1/3 cup red wine (see note 3)
- Heat half the oil in a frying pan/skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until softened. Transfer the onion into a bowl and leave to cool. You can use the pan again to save on washing up.
- When the onion has cooled add the beef, breadcrumbs, egg yolk, paprika and parsley to the bowl. Season well and mix the ingredients together until well combined.
- Use your hands to form the mixture into balls, about the size of a walnut. For 500g/1.1lb of meat, you will get around 25 meatballs.
- Place the flour in a bowl and lightly roll the meatballs in it.
- Heat the remaining oil in the pan over medium-high heat and then add the meatballs. Cook, turning often until they are browned all over then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Do this in batches if you have more meatballs than will fit in the pan.
- Add the garlic into the pan and cook for around 1 minute. Add the red wine and chopped tomatoes and season well. Bring to a simmer and then return the meatballs to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the meatballs in the sauce for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
- You can alternatively use minced pork, or a mixture of both.
- You can substitute for sweet or hot paprika (of course the flavour and heat in the dish will vary depending on the type used).
- You can substitute red wine for a non-alcoholic wine or beef stock, although the flavour of the meatballs will be different. The alcohol does burn off during the cooking process so the final dish won’t contain alcohol, however.
- Meatballs can be kept in the fridge, sealed, for up to 3 days. Reheat on the hob/stove.
- You can also freeze the meatballs for up to 3 months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating.
- Nutritional information is based on 6 portions
- Category: Appetiser
- Method: Hob / Stove
- Cuisine: Spanish
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 290
- Fat: 15g
- Carbohydrates: 10g
- Protein: 19g
Keywords: spanish, meatballs, tapas, beef, red wine, snack, appetiser, starter