Albondigas in Sauce – Mexican Meatballs
This is such a versatile recipe. You can serve the meatballs as an appetizer or have them with rice as the main dish. ‘Albondigas’ is the Spanish word meaning ‘meatballs’ and their history can be traced back to the sixth century. Moorish culinary traditions were integrated into Spanish cuisine, and then the Spanish conquistadores introduced them into Mexico where they became equally popular. Although the original albondigas recipe would have been made with lamb, rice and mint, the ingredients changed depending on the location.
While lamb albondigas would have been popular in the Middle East, beef, chicken and ham would have been used in Spain, and then chicken, turkey, chorizo and beef are the predominant meats used in Mexico. Meatballs can be served dry, in a sauce or in a stew or soup. They range in size from very small to large, and common flavorings used to make them include garlic, cilantro, carrot, onion, jalapeño, vinegar, oregano, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, egg, breadcrumbs or rice, black beans, or whatever else you want to add.
Possible garnishes include hot corn tortillas, green onions, sliced avocado, cilantro, shredded cheese, fried tortilla strips, sour cream, and salsa or pico de gallo. The following recipe prepares the meatballs and the sauce separately and then combines them so the meatballs can poach in the sauce. They soak up the sauce flavors to ensure not only a wonderful flavor but this also keeps them moist of course. Choose either ground beef or lamb for these, or use half of each. You can also use ground venison, pork or another meat if you prefer.
The meatballs feature garlic, mint, cumin and black pepper, while the sauce is made with tomatoes, chipotle chilies, cumin, garlic, and oregano. You will need some meat broth for the sauce. That does not have to be the same type of meat as the ground meat. You can mix and match if you wish. Use chicken broth or lamb broth perhaps, or even some homemade broth. The meatballs should be combined and formed by hand. Do not overmix them else they might go tough. Just get the ingredients combined, and that is all you need to do. Then you can continue making this albondigas recipe.
- 2 lbs ground beef or lamb
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons dried mint
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Oil, for frying
- Cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- 1 minced yellow onion
- 2 cups meat broth
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 3 chopped chipotles in adobo
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- Salt, to taste
- Using your hands, combine the ground meat, garlic, mint, cumin, salt, eggs, breadcrumbs, and black pepper.
- When this mixture starts to come together, shape it into meatballs.
- Sit them in the refrigerator for an hour if you have time, so they hold together better.
- Brown the meatballs in the oil in a large pot, then set them to one side.
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pot.
- Sauté the onions in there for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Stir them every couple of minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the broth, tomato sauce, chipotles, cumin, garlic, oregano, and salt.
- Mix these ingredients together well, then add the meatballs back in.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
- Sprinkle cilantro over the meatballs just before serving, if liked.
This delicious albondigas recipe will make enough meatballs in sauce for 4 people as a main course or 8 if you prefer to serve them as a casual, tasty appetizer. This recipe can be traced back to Spain, and then the Middle East before that, but when the Spanish introduced albondigas to Mexico, they really took these meaty delicacies to heart, and now you can find albondigas recipes all over Mexico. These are flavored with garlic and cumin, as well as mint which pays homage to the original centuries-old recipe, and the sauce is sweet, spicy and savory all rolled into one. These can be served hot over rice or with tortillas, or you can serve them warm as an appetizer. Add toothpicks and napkins, and they become fantastic finger food.
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