Swedish Meatballs


By Lisl Unterholzner

One of the great things about The Gasparilla Cookbook is that it pulls together the best recipes from the various cultures that collide in our area, mainly Cuban, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Southern and more. You may be wondering if and how Swedish Meatballs have anything to do with Florida’s West Coast. Well, I don’t know the background of Mrs. D. A. Kafka, who submitted this recipe. I can tell you that part of my own ancestry is Swedish, and that my great-great-grandfather was one of five brothers from Sweden who came to the Tampa Bay area in the late 1880’s.

Today, the easiest way to enjoy Swedish meatballs is to stop by IKEA, and I’m definitely a fan. But the recipe from The Gasparilla Cookbook is a great place to start if you have the time and the inclination to cook from scratch. For one thing, the texture of these meatballs is phenomenal- super light and fluffy. Plus, the Almond Noodles that accompany them are seriously addictive.

There are a few things I would tweak. For one, the recipe calls for you to sauté 2 tablespoons of minced onion in ¼ cup of butter. You can easily knock that down to 1 tablespoon. The texture of your meatballs will also be affected by the bread you use to make bread crumbs. I used some white bread from the Publix bakery, maybe the Italian Sandwich bread, tearing the slices into pieces and giving them a whirl in the food processor to make pretty fine crumbs.

Don’t use canned bread crumbs- the key is to make sure your bread is not too hard or to dry. Finally, I drained my meatballs on paper towels after browning, then wiped out the pan to remove the excess oil. If you have some browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, you could loosen them with a bit of chicken broth, then return the meatballs to the pan and add the cream.

This recipe did not make a ton of sauce, so don’t expect it to be a make-at-home version of IKEA’s. I see it as a wonderful recipe for a birthday meal or a dinner party. Most of the work for the meatballs is done in advance, and the noodles can be put into a casserole or serving dish and covered with aluminum foil to stand for at least 30 minutes. I served this to some very picky pre-schoolers, and they gobbled up the meatballs. They were less fond of the noodles, which was fine because I was happy to heat them up for lunch (along with a few – not many!- leftover meatballs) the next day.

So, enjoy your meal, or as they say in Swedish, Smaklig måltid!

SWEDISH MEATBALLS

2 cups soft bread crumbs, firmly packed

3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons minced onion

1/4 cup butter

1 lb ground beef

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons flour

Fat or salad oil

1/2 cup light cream

Combine bread crumbs and milk; let stand 10 minutes. Saute onion in butter over low heat until soft but not brown. Combine beef, nutmeg, salt, paprika and egg. Add to bread crumb and onion mixture. Shape in small balls, about 1-inch in diameter. Chill at least 1 hour. Roll meatballs in flour; cook in a little hot fat or salad oil, turning to brown on all sides. Add cream, cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve at once with Almond Noodles. Makes 6 servings.

ALMOND NOODLES

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 8-ounch package egg noodles, cooked

Melt half the butter; add almonds and cook until golden brown. Add remaining butter, paprika and poppy seeds. To hot cooked noodles, add this mixture, tossing with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Makes 6 servings.

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