SnackIshan Jain

Little Spanish Meatballs with Shaved Manchego & Grilled Bread

SnackIshan Jain
Little Spanish Meatballs with Shaved Manchego & Grilled Bread

These little meatballs are very common in tapas bars throughout Spain. They’re usually served in casuelas, and come to your table bubbling hot with grilled bread on the side. The Spanish term for meatball is albondiga and comes from the Arabic term al bundaq or “round.” The southern tip of Spain is very close to Northern Africa, and as a result they use some of the same spices in their dishes. These meatballs have tons of flavor, but aren’t that spicy-hot. You can add more of one spice or omit another to make the recipe fit your own taste. If you can’t find urfa biber, the ground sun-dried Turkish pepper we use in the meatball mixture and sauce, you can always add a bit of smoked paprika in it’s place.

Active Time: 1¼ hours
Makes 70 little meatballs



½ cup onion, very finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1½ lbs ground beef
1 lb ground pork
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon urfa biber* (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

1½ cups all-purpose flour for dredging
1 cup olive oil for frying

Spiced Tomato Sauce

1 cup onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon urfa biber* (optional)
1 teaspoon sumac** (optional)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon honey
1 28-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper

*urfa biber is a sun-dried, ground Turkish pepper that gives these meatballs a sweet, richly spicy quality. You can find it at specialty food stores and online at

**sumac is a deep reddish-purple spice that is commonly used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, and as a result, can be found in dishes in southern Spain. It has a bright, tart flavor and is slightly floral. If you can’t find sumac, just squeeze half a lemon into the sauce. You can buy sumac at


2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup shaved Manchego cheese (we use a vegetable peeler to produce nice shavings).
1 sliced baguette, drizzled with olive oil and grilled until crispy. If you don’t have a grill or stove-top grill pan, toast the bread in a sauté pan.



In a bowl, combine the onion, garlic, meat, parsley, egg, breadcrumbs, spices, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix to combine – try not to overwork the mixture or the meatballs will be tough.

Dampen hands. Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measuring spoon, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch balls. Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll the meatballs in the flour, coating evenly and then shaking off any excess.

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches to avoid crowding, add the meatballs and sear until golden on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to plate. If the pan becomes too dry as you’re cooking the meatballs, add more olive oil.

Spiced Tomato Sauce

Add onion and garlic to the frying pan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the red wine and simmer until reduced by half, scraping up all of the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste and spices and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Next add the honey, tomato sauce, fire roasted tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the meatballs are fully cooked in the sauce, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

To Serve

Transfer the meatballs to a serving bowl and top with the shaved Manchego and chopped parsley. Serve with grilled bread on the side.