We love visiting my family in Marbella, Spain. Not only do we get to spend a lot of time catching up with my favorite Uncle and family, we also enjoy plenty of sun, sand and amazing food. Generally I am all about the fresh fish and eat as much of it as I can while I am so close to the Mediterranean. I also love the Kefta served at Gurrola, a little cantina in Marbella where my Uncle and his buddies can be found most days around noon. The Kefta at Gurrola is a version of the delicious albondigas or Spanish meatball, cooked in a delicious tomato sauce containing several Moroccan style spices, think cumin, cinnamon, etc. Clearly not fresh fish related at all, but so amazing!
Now I am not going to claim these are exactly the same as the deliciously spicy albondigas at Gurrola, nor can I somehow cook up the atmosphere you would enjoy there, but these are as close as my tastebud memories can take me. And when I take a bite of one of these delicious spicy meatballs and close my eyes I can almost smell the Mediterranean Sea and hear my Uncle chatting it up with his buddies.
These come together rather fast and can absolutely be made up a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, or frozen for a couple of months, properly stored.
To make these meatballs I have used grassfed ground beef and/or venison or lamb. The slightly earthier flavor of the grassfed beef (or venison or lamb) add to the authentic flavor of the meatballs, not to mention grassfed beef has so many great health benefits compared to commercial beef.
Step one prepare your sauce so it has time to simmer while you assemble your meatballs. Begin by heating a pan over medium high heat. When your pan is hot drizzle in a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil (Spanish if you have it). Sauté onion in oil for 5-7 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Now season your onion and garlic with the paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stirring rather constantly cook for an additional couple of minutes giving the spices time to develop. Lastly add tomatoes to pan along with cayenne, cilantro, parsley and bay leaf. Allow to simmer while you prepare your meatballs. If you made your meatballs in advance, allow sauce to simmer for about 15-20 minutes before adding them to the sauce to cook.
For the meatballs, mix all meatball ingredients together with the exception of the water, using your hands. Take care not to overwork the meatballs as this can make them tough. Once the ingredients are well incorporated, roll them into balls about the size of half a golf ball. Place all the meatballs along with the water into the pan and cover. Lower heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.
Top with additional fresh cilantro and parsley. Serve warm with lots of crusty bread for sopping up all of that delicious sauce.
- For sauce:
- 1/2 medium onion chopped very fine
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
- bay leaf
- 28 oz can low sodium crushed tomatoes
- For the albondigas (meatballs)
- 1 lb grassfed ground beef or lamb
- 1/2 medium onion finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 28 oz can chopped tomatoes in puree
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/4 cup water
- Make the sauce:
- Drizzle olive oil into heavy bottomed pan heated over medium-high heat. Sautè half of your onion for 5-7 minutes until translucent.
- Add 3 crushed garlic cloves, and balance of dry spices and stir for an additional minute or two to develop flavor.
- Add tomatoes and fresh herbs
- Allow to simmer while you prepare your meatballs.
- For the meatballs:
- In a large bowl mix all meatball ingredients except water with your hands until well combined.
- Shape meat into balls about half the size of a golf ball.
- Add meatballs to sauce along with water.
- Cover and simmer for 45mins to an hour until sauce thick and rich.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve with a generous amount of crusty bread for dipping or make it a meal serving over rice with a fresh salad.