Practically in every Spanish tapas bar or restaurant meatballs are always served. Every bar and restaurant has their own recipe of this treat. Different types of meat are used here: beef, lamb, pork or any mixture thereof. However the most important taste components are the various spices and herbs that stand out in the dish giving it identity.
In Spanish Catalonia it is possible to encounter influences of French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic cuisines. If accent spices, such as cumin or ras el hanout are used, then the meatballs will take on a Moroccan twist. Using more Italian spices will make the tapas more reminiscent of Italy. The use of paprika will give the dish a truly Spanish flavor.
Achieving this Spanish taste in my own tapas had become my mission since returning home from Spanish and French Catalonia. Specifically smoked paprika became the decisive touch in recreating this aromatic flavor. The meatballs turned out incredibly savory and flavorful. They should be served in a small bowl with sauce to be retrieved with a toothpick or fork along with a piece of sweet pepper. The sauce in this dish is especially delicious with a good, crusty bread.
(I like to serve these meatballs not just as tapas but also as a main course with mashed potatoes, rice, couscous, polenta or orzo).
For the meatballs
- 500 g ground meat (beef, lamb, pork, or mixed)
- 1 small onion, chopped in a food processor or grated
- 1 clove garlic, passed through a press
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp paprika
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro or parsley
- Black pepper
For the sauce
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 chili pepper, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 large sweet peppers, preferably different colors, cut into large chunks
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika (not hot)
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Black pepper
- Olive oil for frying
- ½ cup water
In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for meatballs.
Using a cookie spoon or hands make the meatballs. At this stage the meatballs can be frozen for later use.
In a deep pan heat the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add chili pepper and garlic, cook for about 1 minute.
Add bell pepper, spices, water and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and cook for about 7 minutes.
Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes until the meatballs are done. Adjust water and spices.
Frozen meatballs could be stored in the freezer for up to three months.
Cook with pleasure!