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Tiny meatballs in saffron sauce (Albondiguitas al azafran)

Updated: May 20, 2022

This very traditional tapas is quite common all over Spain, and bars compete for the best version of this dish. The dish is the perfect confluence of flavors from European Spain but accentuated with saffron and paprika from the Moors. This is the perfect beer food, elegant, beautifully spiced and perfectly balanced.

Yes, you need to keep them tiny so the spices and saffron can penetrate them and infuse the meat with flavor. The smoky paprika and saffron infuses the meat during the slow braising process, making these meatballs soft and delicious. With a glass of beer or deep red wine, these meatballs are addictive. This is one of those perfect appetizer or starters, one that you will not stop munching on.

This is a classic cookbook from Penelope Casas, an American-Greek food writer who introduced Americans to the cuisine of Spain, including tapas, in the 1980’s. This book in particular is a collection of exceptional recipes of all the classic tapas recipes. The recipes are simple, yet pop with flavor and are always delicious. This book belongs on your shelf for its originality and wonderful introduction to the world of tapas.


1/2 lb ground veal or beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1 strip bacon, finely diced

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons parsley, finely minced

3 tablespoons lettuce ribs, finely minced

1 slice white bread soaked in 1/2 cup water and squeezed dry

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons onions, finely minced

1 teaspoon flour

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, Spanish preferred

1/2 cup beef or chicken broth

2 tablespoons white wine

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

A generous pinch saffron

Parsley, minced, for garnish

Mix the veal/beef, pork, bacon, egg, garlic, parsley, lettuce, bread, salt and pepper well. Shape a teaspoon sized ball and fry on a frying pan. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, parslety and other flavors. Shape the meatballs, making them about 1-inch in diameter. Dust lightly with flour.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs till well browned on all sides.

When the meatballs are cooked, add the onions and sauté till the onions are softened and translucent. Do not let the onions get any color. Add the flour and the paprika and cook for 1 minute.

Add the broth and the wine and bring to a boil. Simmer closed for 30 minutes. Make sure the liquids do not dry out, add more stock or water as needed for a light sauce.

Meanwhile mash togher the garlic, parsley and the saffron in a mortar and pestle. Add to the meatballs and stir in. Adjust the sauce as needed. Serve immediately.

If you make th meatballs ahead of time, add the garlic-saffron paste at the last minute, just before you serve.

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