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Meatballs in Almond Sauce (Albóndigas en Salsa de Almendra)

Meatballs in Almond Sauce (Albóndigas en Salsa de Almendra)
The proportion of bread to meat varies in albóndigas depending upon the extravagance of the cook. These meatballs can be fried and served on toothpicks; cooked in a cazuela; fried and tossed in a sauce made of pan juices enriched with sherry and meat stock; or prepared as they are here, fried in olive oil, then briefly simmered in a wine sauce thickened by a signature Catalan almond picada.


For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 2 slices bread, about 2 oz. total, soaked in water to
      cover and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 Tbs. finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg or cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

For the picada:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbs. ground blanched almonds
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • A few saffron threads, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  • Olive oil for deep-frying or sautéing
  • All-purpose flour for dusting

For the sauce:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2/3 cup meat or chicken broth


To make the meatballs, in a bowl, combine the beef, pork, soaked bread, onion, garlic, parsley, egg, paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Knead with your hands until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, as the mixture is easier to work with when cold.

To make the picada, in a mini food processor or mortar, combine the garlic, almonds, parsley, paprika and saffron, and process or grind to a paste. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a deep-fry pan over medium-high heat, pour in olive oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. While the oil is heating, form the meat mixture into 1-inch balls and dust them with flour, coating evenly.

Working in batches, slip the balls into the hot oil and fry until golden, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. (Alternately, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm a little olive oil and sauté the meatballs until well browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.)

To make the sauce, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine, broth and meatballs and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add the picada and cook for a few minutes more to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Spain & Portugal, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 2000).