A meatball is ground meat rolled into a small ball, sometimes along with other ingredients, such as bread crumbs, minced onion, eggs, butter, and seasoning. Meatballs are cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce. There are many types of meatballs using different types of meats and spices. The term is sometimes extended to meatless versions based on vegetables or fish; the latter are also commonly known as fishballs.
The ancient Roman cookbook Apicius included many meatball-type recipes.
Early recipes included in some of the earliest known Persian cookbooks generally feature seasoned lamb rolled into orange-sized balls and glazed with egg yolk and sometimes saffron. This method was taken to the West and is referred to as gilding. Many regional variations exist, notable among them the unusually large kufte Tabrīzī, from Iran’s North-Western region, having an average diameter of 20 centimetres (7.9 in).
Poume d’oranges is a gilded meatball dish from the Middle Ages.
- In Estonia, meatballs are called lihapallid (literally “meatballs”) and are similar to those of Finnish or Swedish cuisine.
- In Sweden, meatballs are called köttbullar (literally “meat buns”). They come in a few different types, all typically small, and the international influence is great, perhaps the greatest from Sweden and Spain. They are usually eaten with potatoes. Some common additions are vegetables, ketchup, spices, etc. They are made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef, pork and sometimes veal or venison, finely chopped (fried) onions, some broth, often with cream and sometimes with breadcrumbs soaked in milk. They are seasoned with white pepper and salt and sometimes allspice and herbs. Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with gravy, boiled or mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and sometimes pickled cucumber. Traditionally, they are small, around 2–4 centimetres (0.79–1.57 in) in diameter, though larger meatballs are often served at restaurants. In 2018, Sweden’s official national Twitter account claimed that what Swedish meatballs are based on a Turkish recipe and King Charles XII used food as a way to help boost the relationships between the two countries. However, a food and culture expert at Stockholm University claimed that there was no evidence behind this and that the meatballs likely originated in France or Italy instead.
There is something special about Swedish meatballs with cream of mushroom soup. The depth and richness of mushroom soup takes meatballs to the next level that can’t be replicated by other ingredients. Whenever possible, I make my own cream of mushroom soup, but a can of store-bought soup will do the trick. A cup of the soup is enough for this recipe but you can easily add another half a cup if you like.
To introduce some color and acidity, and more flavor, I like adding a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire to the mushroom sauce, but that’s totally optional in this recipe.
The trick to making the Swedish meatballs more flavorful is to roast bread crumbs before mixing them with ground meat. Very few recipes that I’ve seen recommend doing and that’s a big omission. Seriously, follow this tip and you will understand what I am talking about. It only takes a few extra minutes.
For the meatballs:
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1 small onion (finely chopped)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 lb lean ground pork
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or granulated garlic)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
For frying meatballs:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
For the sauce mushroom soup sauce:
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley (finely chopped)
In a large non-stick skillet, roast the bread crumbs over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Bread crumbs are done when darker in color and smell toasty. That takes about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
In the same skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil, add the chopped onions and cook them until soft, about 3 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and transfer to the bowl with the breadcrumbs.
Add the ground meat, milk, egg, parsley, salt and spices to the bread crumb and onion mixture. Mix well to combine.
From the meat mixture, make approximately 20 meatballs of even size. Set aside on a plate.
Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. If you skillet is not big enough, you may wan to do it in two batches so that it’s easier to turn the meatballs. Set aside on a plate.
Pour the broth to the skillet and bring a boil, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. If you used a non-stick pan, you probably won’t have many of those, which is OK.
Return the meatballs back to the pan. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
Serve the meatballs while they are hot with noodles, with the sauce poured over and a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top. If you don’t want to serve immediately, keep the meatballs warm, tightly covered.
- If preparing using Unsalted Cream of Mushroom you can add salt to taste. Our test kitchen found that 1/4 teaspoon of salt enhanced the flavor of the recipe and contributes an additional 118 mg of sodium per serving, but you can add less or more to make it right for you.