Albóndigas (Spanish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

Tapas are in Spain simply bar food, but outside of Spain have become very famous. In Spain every bar (with the word “bar” meaning a neighborhood hangout that is open all day and night and where you can also buy newspapers or lottery tickets) has a display on the counter that proudly displays the, often homemade, tapas. Tapas are usually straightforward and delicious. One of the most well-known tapas are albóndigas (pronounced with the stress on the ó): meatballs in tomato sauce. In my version I’ve added a bit of Spanish smoked paprika to the sauce for a nice smoky kick, and a bit of beef stock for added beefiness. Albóndigas are simple to make and well worth the effort. I served them at my 40th birthday party and they were devoured very quickly.


I served the albóndigas at my 40th birthday party and made a double batch

For the meatballs

500 grams (1.1 lbs) ground beef

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1 egg, beaten

4 Tbsp dry breadcrumbs

3 Tbsp wine (red or white)

flour for dusting

oil for frying

1/2 tsp salt

For the sauce

1 onion, chopped

1 can (400 grams/14 oz) of peeled tomatoes

60 ml (1/4 cup) beef stock

2 Tbsp olive oil

pinch of saffron

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp tomato paste

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine the meat with the garlic, parsley and salt in a bowl. Add the wine…

…the breadcrumbs…

…and the egg.

Mix with your hands until the mixture is homogeneous.

Make balls using your hands, a bit smaller than ping pong balls.

Dust them with flour.

Take a gratuitous floured meatball shot.

Heat the olive oil in a casserole and add the onions. Sauté the onions over medium heat until soft and golden, about 10 minutes, stirring now and then.

Transfer the cooked onions to the bowl of the food processor and add the tomatoes, smoked paprika, and tomato paste.

Process until smooth.

Pour the tomato mixture back into the casserole.

Pound a pinch of saffron threads with the beef stock in a mortar and pestle…

…and add it to the tomato sauce.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the sauce has become somewhat thicker.

Meanwhile, heat plenty of oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown the meatballs in batches over high heat.

Make sure to turn them often, so they brown evenly on all sides without burning.

Remove the meatballs from the frying pan with a slotted spoon…

…and allow them to drain on paper towels.

Taste the tomato sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Add the browned meatballs to the tomato sauce…


…and stir to mix.


Cover and allow to simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.


The meatballs are now ready to be served. They can be reheated if needed in the microwave or by gentle heat on the stove with plenty of stirring.

19 thoughts on “Albóndigas (Spanish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

  1. Stefan – I love tapas. And reading the paper. Lottery tickets, not so much. I noticed this recipe has smoked paprika, wine and saffron. That’s it, I’m sold! I especially like that they are served with a rich, deep tomato sauce. I will try these as an appetizer – or even as part of a main course, served over a pasta or grain of some sort. Albóndigas… with the accent on the O. 😉 MMMMMMMMMMM. Your photos are seriously awesome in this post, by the way. Fantastic foodie fotos! Best, Shanna


  2. Late to the party, Stefan, but I hope there’s still a few of these left for me. They sound delicious. Your serving them with bread and a salad, as you suggested to Shanna, would make a great meal.


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