Recipe: Layering flavors for the most delicious Spanish meatballs

Check out this recipe for rich and satisfying Spanish Bondigas, or tapas-style meatballs, which can be made in less than half an hour.

This photo posted by Milk Street shows a recipe for Spanish meatballs.

Milk Street via AP

The secret to bold and elegant food is a technique called layer flavoring. When you layer flavor, you maximize the impact of the individual ingredient, resulting in multiple distinct yet complementary tastes. The result is a dish that features a short ingredient list and a big personality.

Here are two examples for beginners: using citrus zest and juice in a salad dressing; We cook green onion whites in pilaf rice, then decorate the finished dish with green onions. It’s a lesson we rely on a lot, but especially in our “COOKish” book, which limits recipes to just six ingredients.

A good example is our rich and satisfying Spanish Albongas, or tapas-style meatballs, which can be made in just under half an hour. Smoked paprika not only seasons meatballs, but also flavors the sauce and helps thicken it until it has a glaze-like consistency. We also add chopped garlic and thyme to the minced meat with panko, as well as cook garlic slices and thyme sprigs in the sauce.

Chopped green olives add a glossy finish. Look for firm, fleshy green olives like Castelvetrano. Serve the meatballs with plenty of warm, crunchy bread.

Spanish Meatballs

From start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 4

1 pound 90% lean ground beef

Quarter cup of rusk

5 medium garlic cloves, 2 minced, 3 thinly sliced

2 tablespoons smoked paprika, divided

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, plus 3 sticks of thyme

Salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

cup pitted green olives, chopped

Combine beef, panko, minced garlic, 1 tablespoon paprika, chopped thyme, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; Form 16 meatballs. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs and fry on the bottom. Add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and cook until the exterior fades from pink. Uncover and cook, stirring often, until centers reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Add half a cup of water with the chopped garlic and the remaining tablespoon of paprika, thyme and olives. Cook, stirring, until meatballs are slightly incorporated.

Optional garnish: roasted almond slices

Editor’s note: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at

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