This dish has quintessential Spanish flavors, but the secret to this dish is…
The orange rind.
THE RAMBLE: WINNER FOR TEAM SPAIN!
LET’S TALK ABOUT Spanish meatballs, or albondigas. There are so many ways to make delicious Spanish style meatballs, from this red pepper to almond sauce. This variety is such a great introductory Spanish dish, because you get a taste of all of Spain in one bite (Just as a reminder, Spain is part of the Mediterranean, attached to southern France, Portugal, and across the Mediterranean sea from Italy. It is not part of Latin America, as many people misunderstand). Ubiquitous and iconic red pepper, tomatoes, parsley, peas, pork, olive oil, garlic, and then ORANGE. Again, it’s that magical fruit and meat pairing (read my thoughts on that in a previous post, Fleshes: Fruit + Meat from Around the Globe | Chinese Orange Chicken). It is the most delicious balance of all of these flavors. Of course, you eat everything in Spain with a bit of pan that is mostly used as a utensil, and then used to sop up sauce and literally clean your plate at the end. Oh Spain, you still have the majority of my heart.
LET’S TALK ABOUT these ingredients. I found all the ingredients I needed fort this dish at your average market, and even found pigeon peas at my local Mexican market, which I prefer to our sweet, chlorophyl-tasting peas. The guisantes in Spain are more savory and are usually larger, but I can’t find those anywhere, therefore, pigeon peas. I did also find the best jarred Goya olives with the pit at that market. It even says in the jar that they are the best, and they are! I could eat the whole jar in one sitting. If you can’t find those, get some great olive-bar olives, the simple green olives are great, and if they have the pit, the texture is best. But get what you like, if you can find Spanish aceitunas con anchoa, you are a lucky son-of-a-gun, those being my favorite snack in the world. Just get some good green olives to accompany this dish. They are the perfect garnish that gives the perfect balance of flavor. We finally have a Spanish recipe for another winner for Team Spain and the western side of the world!
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Spanish food: Sandee A @sandeea of her blog La Receta de la Felicidad and book Chocolate (y sorteo!) (can be translated to English), Asun @recetashuga of her blog Las Mejores Recetas de Huga.
Spanish Meatballs in Red Pepper Sauce
Adapted from Meatballs with Peas, Spanish a collection of over 100 essential recipes Parragon recipe book, serves 4, medium-level fuss, about 2 hrs to make.
4 TBS olive oil
10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 (5 oz or 140 g) large shallots, chopped
4 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded and chopped
4 (2 lbs 4 oz or 1 kg) large ripe, fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 thin strips (about 2 ” x 1/4 “) freshly pared orange rind, any pith scraped off
salt, pepper, and sugar to taste
2 onions, thinly sliced
7 oz or 200 g or 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 TBS fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 lb 2 oz or 500 g or 2 1/4 cups lean ground beef (or pork or mixed)
1 onion, grated
2 oz or 55 g or 1 cup breadcrumbs, fresh, or dried with a splash of milk to lightly moisten
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 TBS+ olive oil
- Sauce: Add olive oil to a large pan/pot over medium heat. Add shallots and caramelize for 5 minutes, then add garlic and bell peppers, and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, orange rind, about 1 tsp salt, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 30-45 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Then remove from heat, puree in a food processor and press though a sieve to strain the pepper and tomato skins into a medium sized mixing bowl, set sauce aside and pan aside.
- Meatballs: Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add meatball ingredients: ground meat, grated onion, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, salt, and pepper. Mix ingredients together with your wet hands or a fork until evenly incorporated. Shape them with a 2 TBS cookie scoop or wet hands. Depending on your choice of size, this mixture should yield about 12-18 meatballs. Ideally, these should chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- In your pan used to make the sauce, add 1 TBS olive oil, place over medium heat, and cook a batch of meatballs in a single layer. Brown on both sides to set the shape, about 2-3 minutes on each side, let rest on paper plates or newspaper. These will finish cooking in the sauce. Repeat with remaining meatballs, adding more olive oil if necessary. Once all the meatballs have been browned, pour out all but 2 TBS of the oil from the pan. Place pan with oil back on medium-medium low heat and add sliced onions until they are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add your meatballs to the pan, and stir in the red pepper sauce. Bring everything to a boil and spoon some of the sauce over the meatballs. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. Then, give everything a stir. Taste sauce, add a sprinkle of sugar to taste if too acidic/metallic-tasting, add a sprinkle of salt to taste to balance or if too bland. Then, add frozen peas and cook until tender and meatballs are cooked through, about 7-10 minutes more. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with baguette, green olives, rice, yukon gold potatoes, etc.