The Spanish love their albondigas, or meatballs. These are flavored with a hint of saffron and served with a quick pan made tomato sauce. To accompany these Spanish meatballs, I chose some fresh string beans steamed in the sauce.
You can use your favorite type of meat to make the meatballs. I like equal amounts of pork and beef. In addition to the saffron, the meatballs are seasoned with garlic, onion, thyme salt and pepper. There are all kinds of sauces to serve your meatballs in; today I chose a simple pan sauce of tomatoes, onions and garlic.
Traditional meatballs may be a problem if you’re eating gluten free. To solve the problem I made bread crumbs from two slices of gluten free bread. Finely ground oatmeal would work, too. Instead of all purpose flour for coating I used chickpea flour. Here’s a good tip I picked up (probably from Food Network): before shaping all the meatballs cook one to test the seasoning.
Two pounds of meat made over 4 dozen meatballs. I used a cookie scoop to portion them and freeze the extras.
I used a can of diced tomatoes canned with sauce to make the quick tomato sauce. Slowly but surely I’m clearing out my way overstocked pantry. If you have time, by all means make your sauce from fresh tomatoes. The green beans were fresh but I’m sure frozen whole beans would be just as good.
You could serve either dish separately as a tapa. Served together, they make a nice meal.
For the Albondigas (Meatballs):
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 3/4 cups plain crumbs (or fresh bread crumbs made from your choice of white, wheat or gluten free bread)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- generous pinch saffron threads
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
- chickpea flour (besan or gram flour) for coating
- 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
For the Green Beans and Tomato Sauce (judias verdes con tomate)
- 1 pound string beans, washed and trimmed
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes in sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
Make the meatballs first
- Place the ground beef, pork and bread crumbs in a large mixing bowl.
- Crush the saffron threads with the onion and garlic powder in a mortar and pestle.
- Beat the crushed spices with the eggs.
- Add the beaten eggs, thyme, parsley and salt and pepper to the meat.
- Mix until well combined. If you want, cook a test meatball to check the seasonings and adjust if necessary.
- Form the meatballs and roll in flour to coat.
- Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and cook the meatballs in batches. You don’t have to do much more than turn them over to get a nice color on all sides and give the pan an occasional shake to prevent them from sticking. It will take about 8 – 10 minutes for them to cook through.
- Remove the meatballs to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Cook the string beans and sauce in the same pan
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of drippings from the pan.
- Saute the onions and garlic until softened.
- Empty the tomatoes into the pan. Stir to combine.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Nestle the beans down into the sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cover.
- Cook the beans in the sauce until they are crisp tender (7 – 8 minutes).
- Remove the lid and allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes more or until it has thickened.
To serve, use tongs to remove the string beans to a serving dish. Spoon some sauce over top. Spread the same sauce on a plate or in the bottom of a small casserole. Arrange the Spanish meatballs over top.
Don’t forget the bread and wine!