Albondigas - Spanish meatballs in tomato sauce

Albondigas – Spanish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce – Classic Recipe

Albondigas can be found in almost every tapas bar in Spain throughout the year, and are typically served piping hot, but cool down remarkably quickly outside of the pot. Most bars will have their own slightly different recipe so visitors to Spain shouldn’t be afraid to order this tapa as they bar hop and sample local cuisine.

Generally there are two types of sauce the meatballs are cooked in, the rich red tomato sauce, and the gravy style pale garlic sauce albondigas clarasthough this is rarer and in most bars will not be served at all. It is important to realise that the wors ‘tomato sauce’ do not do justice to the flavour of the sauce, this is not ketchup, it is a delicious tomato and olive oil based sauce that is quite unique to this recipe.

This Albondigas recipe will make 12 meatballs.


  • 250g minced beef
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of grated manchego cheese (substitute parmesan)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic
  • 2 finely chopped green onions (shallots)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 cups of plum tomatos
  • 2 tablespoons of rioja (Spanish red wine)
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped basil
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary

These meatballs are very easy to make, simply mix all of the meatball ingredients (minced beef, breadcrumbs, manchego cheese, tomato paste, garlic, green onions, thyme, turmeric, salt and pepper) together in a bowl using a large spoon or fork.

Split the mixture into 12 chunks and roll into balls. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil till it sizzles (not boiling), and add the meatballs till they are brown all over.

Next add the tomato sauce ingredients (plum tomatos, rioja, basil, rosemary) and cook for 20 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve 2-3 meatballs in small tapas dishes with sauce and bread.

To make this dish extra special, garnish the tapas with dried basil leaves. You can also experiment and add preserved red chillis to the sauce ingredients.

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Level of difficulty: Easy