Albondigas are delicious Spanish meatballs in a rich and smoky tomato sauce. A must at any tapas feast, but equally delicious served on pasta or mashed potato. Either save some time and buy ready made meatballs, or use our really simple meatball recipe that is packed with flavour.
Melt in your mouth meatballs are cooked in an incredibly rich, a little bit smokey, tomato sauce that has a hint of red wine in it. If you have been to a tapas restaurant, or spent any time in Spain, then you will be familiar with these. So, why not give them a go yourself?
Why you will love them
- A new way to serve meatballs
- A must at any tapas feast
- Great for sharing
- Can be batch cooked and kept in the freezer
- Pork mince - You can use beef or pork mince in albondigas, but we really like the flavour of pork mince. You can use a mixture of the two.
- Garlic - Fresh is always best, but you can save yourself some time by using ready chopped garlic from a jar.
- Paprika - This is what gives the meatballs a delicious smokey flavour. Make sure it is still in date, otherwise it won't have the same flavour.
- Chilli powder - We love our albondigas with a kick of spice. If you don't they you can always leave it out.
- Parsley - Fresh parsley helps to lighten them you. You could swap it for dried if you don't have any fresh.
- Breadcrumbs - this helps to bind the meatballs together. You can use any bread crumbs, although we wouldn't recommend something like panko.
- Egg - This also helps to bind the meatballs. If you want them egg free, then you could just add a little milk to the breadcrumbs.
- Shallots - You can swap this for finely diced red or brown onion.
- Tomatoes - We used a can of chopped tomatoes for the meatball sauce. Try to use the best quality tomatoes that you can, as you really will taste the difference. Cheap tomatoes are watery and you won't get the same sauce.
- Red wine - You don't have to add this, but it adds a nice richness to the sauce.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: In a large bowl, add all the ingredients for the meatballs.
Two: Mix well and then form in to 20 meatballs.
Three: Add some oil to a large frying pan and then brown them all all sides (this will take about 5 minutes). Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Four: Start the sauce by adding some more oil to the pan and adding the shallots and garlic and gently cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and then simmer for 2 minutes.
Five: Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer for 3 minutes.
Six: Put the meatballs back in the pan with the sauce, mix well and simmer for 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
What Is tapas?
In Spanish, you can have one ‘tapa’ and two or more ‘tapas’. It is basically a small plate of Spanish cuisine and translates to ‘top’ or ‘lid’.
It is said that when people drank Sherry, they often covered their wine glasses with a slice of bread or meat to keep the flies from doing a nose-dive into the wine, and that is how tapas began and where it got its name. Tapas is classic Spanish cuisine.
Nowadays it is a popular cuisine all over the world and has moved on from a slice of ham covering a wine glass. There are many types of Tapas Bars and recipes can vary regionally, but popular tapas choices include chicken skewers, meatballs, cod croquettes, garlic prawns and crispy smokey potatoes – many of the recipes you will find on our blog.
The benefit of tapas is you can enjoy 4-5 smaller plates, and even share, so you get to have a hearty meal without being stuffed and you get to try a few different things. These Albondigas are a must on any tapas table.
You can use your favourite meatball recipe, save some time and use ready made store bought one, or make the one in this recipe which is our tried and tested favourite, that goes perfectly with the sauce.
We use 100% pork mince, however you could use beef or a mix of the two. We then mix in some breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic, paprika and a little bit of chilli to give the meatballs something extra.
What makes Spanish meatballs different from Italian meatballs is their size. Because they are meant for tapas, and sharing, then are quite small compared to Italian meatballs which are larger because they are part of a main meal.
I mean, the meatballs are amazing, but it really is all about the smokey tomato sauce. It is epic!
First we gently cook some shallots and garlic and then add a big glug of red wine and let it reduce. You want to use a really good quality red wine, as you will taste the difference - we used a Merlot.
Then we added some really good quality tinned chopped tomatoes and the all important paprika that gives it the delicious smokey taste. You can add some chilli here as well if you want.
What to serve them with
These albondigas are a must at any tapas feast (which is a great choice if you are putting together a dinner party and want something that will really wow) and we have loads of tapas recipes below for you to try.
However, we have also eaten leftovers on pasta and mashed potatoes. Spaghetti and meatballs is such a classic comforting dish and these meatballs are something a little bit different.
They are also delicious just eaten with some crusty bread fresh from the oven.
If you don't want to fry your meatballs, then you can bake them in the oven and then just add them to the sauce after. However, we find they don't get the deliciously crispy edges that give them so much flavour.
Yes, this is a great dish for batch cooking and freezing and you actually have a couple of options here. You can either make up the albondigas and freeze them before they are cooked, or you can follow the whole recipe and then freeze them in the sauce.
By freezing the uncooked meatballs, you then have lots of use for them, rather than just having them in this sauce.
More tapas recipes
Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs)
- 250 g (8.75 oz) Pork mince
- 3 Garlic clove - crushed
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 0.5 tablespoon Paprika
- 0.5 teaspoon Chilli powder - or to taste
- 5 g Fresh parsley - chopped
- 1 Egg
- 70 g (0.66 cups) Breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 2 Shallots - diced
- 3 Garlic cloves
- 100 ml (0.5 cups) Red wine
- 400 g (2.5 cups) Chopped tomatoes - canned
- 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- In a large bowl, add 250 g Pork mince, 3 Garlic clove, 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper, 0.5 tablespoon Paprika, 0.5 teaspoon Chilli powder, 5 g Fresh parsley, 1 Egg and 70 g Breadcrumbs.
- Mix well and then form in to 20 meatballs.
- Add 1 tablespoon Olive oil to a large frying pan and then brown the meatballs on all sides (this will take about 5 minutes). Remove them from the pan and set aside.
- Start the sauce by adding 1 tablespoon Olive oil to the pan and adding 2 Shallots and 3 Garlic cloves and gently cook for 2 minutes. Add 100 ml Red wine and then simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add 400 g Chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon Smoked paprika and 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Put the meatballs back in the pan with the sauce, mix well and simmer for 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.
- You can add some extra flavour and heat to the sauce by adding a little chilli powder to it. Add a little at a time to get the right spice level for you.
- We used pork mince, but you could use beef or a mixture of the two.
- Feel free to use store bought ready made meatballs or your favourite meatball recipe.
- You can oven bake the meatballs, but they won't get the crispy edges and flavour you get from frying.
- If you want to freeze this dish, you can either freeze the meatballs before they are cooked, or once they are in the sauce.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.