These Spanish Meatballs with Cherry Tomato Sauce are an easy, delicious and rustic way to incorporate some healthy, lean protein into your diet. They’re bursting with flavour, the meatballs can be assembled ahead of time, and they can be served in a variety of ways.
Oh, did I mention they’re Whole30 and Paleo?
In Spain, it is super common to find meatballs (albondingas) served as tapas (small, bite-sized eats). They’re typically made of pork and/or beef and cooked in a delicious tomato sauce. Similar to many Italian meatball recipes, the Spaniards like to add a bit of bread soaked in milk and/or cheese, such as manchego, to the meat mixture. Where they differ is their use of smoked paprika – my absolute favourite spice! It adds a beautiful kiss of smokey flavour that elevates the meatballs to a whole new level.
If you’re asking me, I like to serve these Spanish Meatballs with Cherry Tomato Sauce as a main course alongside some roasted potatoes and grilled veggies. If so desired, you can also spoon the meatballs and sauce overtop of some zoodles. As always, you’re the boss, applesauce.
As with other ‘globally specific’ recipes on the blog, I should note that these Spanish Meatballs are a healthy ode to the tapas I love to eat while travelling in Spain and I am by no means trying to be “traditional” or “authentic”.
First and foremost, I say ‘adios’ to the fillers. Personally, I’ve found that bread and cheese are unnecessary additions here. Granted, the bread adds a spongy, soft texture to the meatballs and the cheese gives it some creaminess and umami. However, they also leave me feeling bloated and lethargic. Plus, dairy triggers my asthma (you can read more about that here). Not to mention the fact that it’s the meat I’m after if I’m eating MEATballs.
I also substituted game meat instead of the traditional pork/beef combos. This time I used elk, but I imagine wild boar, venison and bison would work perfectly here! The gamey flavour pairs perfectly with the smoked paprika and rustic, garlicky tomato sauce.
As far as preparation goes, I’ve come across both pan-fried and oven-roasted Spanish meatballs. I’ve always preferred the pan-fried versions because of the richer flavour and caramelized, crispy edges. You’ll notice it’s the method I use in this recipe.
However, if you are preparing a large amount of meatballs for a big party or meal prep, it is way easier to simply lay the meatballs down on a parchment paper-line roasting pan and bake them at 400F for 40-45min (flip halfway), or until they reach an internal temperature of 160F.
If you’re reading this in the summer months (it’s currently July), I urge you to seek out some ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes for the sauce. They cook super quickly and have a beautiful acidity to them. Don’t even bother trying to peel any of the tomato skins though. Just slice the tomatoes in half and toss them with sautéed garlic and onions. Trust me, it’s a thing of beauty!
If it’s winter or tomatoes are scarce, you can substitute some high-quality, tinned tomatoes that come in a BPA-free can, or even your favourite jarred marinara sauce.
I hope you enjoy these Spanish Meatballs with Cherry Tomato Sauce!
As always, if you cook this recipe and share it on social media, be sure to tag @primal_gourmet so I can follow along!
- 1 lbs medium ground red meat of choice elk, venison, bison, wild boar, pork or beef
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup red onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil EVOO
- 1 pint Cherry Tomatoes sliced in half
- 1/4 cup red onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic finely sliced
- 1/2 or more fresh red chili pepper such as anaheim (optional)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley finely chopped - plus extra for garnish
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or water
- 2 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil optional
- Add all meatball ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to mix until just combined. *Avoid overworking the meat or it will toughen.
- Use a spoon or melon baller to separate mixture into 14-16 golfball-sized portions. Rub your hands with tiny bit of oil or water and roll into meatballs.
- Preheat 1 tbsp EVOO in a non-stick or stainless steel skillet over med-high heat. Carefully add meatballs and brown in batches. Cook until golden brown and caramelized on all sides (approximately 12min total).
- Transfer cooked meatballs to a tray and set aside.
- Discard all but 2-3 tbsp of rendered fat in the pan. If required, add an additional 2-3 tbsp EVOO.
- Drop heat to med-low and add onions. Season with a tiny pinch of salt and cook 3-4 min or until onions have softened slightly. Add garlic and chili peppers, cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and cook 4-5 min or until slightly softened. Add stock or water and reduce by half (approx. 2-3min).
- Taste for seasoning and adjust sauce with salt and pepper as required. Return meatballs to pan and toss everything to coat.
- Transfer Spanish Meatballs and Cherry Tomato Sauce to a serving platter and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.