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Meatballs in an Almond Sauce

Spanish Meatballs in Almond Sauce Spanish Meatballs in Almond Sauce

As reinforcement to my New Year resolutions I have a pile of cookbooks on the table beside the couch, so now, no matter how lazy I’m feeling there’s a cookbook within easy reach. I’m ashamed to say I’ve discovered a vast numbers of previously bookmarked but ignored recipes.

It’s no secret I’m an admirer of Claudia Roden. Her seminal work from the 1980s “The New Book Of Middle Eastern Food” has been a huge influence on my cooking. I love reading the historical and social commentary that intersperses her recipes. It imbues the food with life. After my recent foray into tapas style dishes it seemed logical to put Roden’s “The Food of Spain” at the top of the pile.

Like her other books, Roden’s “The Food of Spain” is about regional everyday cooking. In this recipe the sauce for the meatballs is thickened with a picada, a fine crumb of toasted almonds, breadcrumbs and garlic, a technique unique to Catalan cooking. 

Meatballs should be moist, tender and tasty. My favourite all-round meatball mix uses pork with a little fat, finely minced vegetables and a binding of wet fresh breadcrumbs, a formula learned from a wonderful Calabrian cook I worked with many moons ago. Roden uses a similar technique. 

A generous measure of salt and freshly ground black pepper are essential in meatballs. It’s important to check that the seasoning is well balanced, you want tasty meatballs. The best way to check is to fry a little patty of mixture and taste. More often than not, I find more salt is needed. 

It’s the almond sauce that makes this dish a standout. Fruity white wine and homemade chicken stock are thickened with almonds and soft breadcrumbs sautéed briefly in garlic oil, then processed to a fine crumb. It makes a truly great sauce. There are no tricky techniques, just simple direct cooking that produces a delicious result.

I have modified Roden’s recipe slightly to accomodate my food intolerances.

Meatballs in an Almond Sauce

for the picada:

20g stout white bread, trimmed of crusts and roughly torn

40g blanched almonds

2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil plus 1 tablespoon olive oil*

*(or 3 cloves of garlic and 3 tablespoons olive oil)


100g chunk of stout white bread, trimmed of crusts

1 large egg

500g minced pork, not too lean

2 tablespoons carrots finely minced

2 tablespoons celery, finely minced

2 tablespoons parsley, finely minced

1 teaspoon sea salt

generous grinding of black pepper

rice flour for rolling the meatballs

olive oil for frying

for the almond sauce:

500 mls unsalted chicken stock

200 mis fruity dry white wine

grated zest of 1 lemon

salt and pepper to taste

the picada: 

Heat the garlic oil, then fry the nuts and bread until golden.

Set aside to cool then process the mix to a fine crumb

the meatballs:

Soak the bread in a bowl of water for 5 minutes.

Squeeze the bread dry with your hands then crumble it into a mixing bowl.

Add the egg and whisk the mixture together into a paste.

Add the meat, vegetables and seasonings, use wet hand hands to knead the mixture until smooth.

Heat a small pan and cook a small patty of meat to taste the seasoning. Adjust if necessary.

Shape the meat into ball about the size of a walnut then roll in rice flour.

Heat 1cm depth of olive oil in a frypan, then brown the meatballs on all side. 

They won’t be cooked through but remove them from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

the sauce:

Put the stock and wine into a wide pan and bring to the boil.

Add the lemon zest and seasonings.

Add the picada to the sauce and stir to combine.

Add the browned meatballs, return the sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes.

The sauce will thicken toward the end of the cooking time. 

Serves 4

Some other meatball recipes

Steamed Chinese style pork and prawn meatballs

Swedish meatballs

Lamb kofta curry

Porcupine meatballs


About ladyredspecs

I live in sunny Brisbane, Australia. My love of good food drives me as a cook, a reader, a traveller, an artist and but mostly as an eater. I cooked professionally for many years but have no formal training. Simply guided by a love of eating good food, respect for ingredients and an abhorrence of artificial additives, I cook instinctively applying the technical know how acquired by experience. I hope you enjoy what I share Sandra AKA ladyredspecs

11 comments on “Meatballs in an Almond Sauce

  1. Michelle
    February 9, 2019

    I love that recipe and have made it many times. Thanks for reminding me!


  2. StefanGourmet
    February 9, 2019

    This looks and sounds great. To be tried.


  3. Sherry
    February 7, 2019

    i love claudia roden. i have a couple of her cookbooks. i must go hunt them out … yes meatballs always need way more seasoning and spices than you expect. hubby always tells me to keep chucking it in:-)


    • ladyredspecs
      February 7, 2019

      It’s true isn’t it, meatballs soak up a lot of seasoning, so listen to MrP


      • Sherry
        February 8, 2019

        i always do then i just go my own way. Tee hee.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Eha
    February 7, 2019

    Everyone I know seems to love Claudia Roden and just somehow I have always walked past her: first matter to be rectified ! And seem to have made every kind of meatball during my cooking years, especially anything even vaguely Asian but Spanish also has not been tried 🙂 ! About time for that too! Like the almond sauce with the picada tho’ have to buy white bread as never use any and my white wines are not exactly ‘fruity’: interesting trip !!


    • ladyredspecs
      February 7, 2019

      Just use what you have Eha, recipes are merely one person’s guide. Generally all I have is grain spelt bread but gone back to basics with my sourdough after a few disappointments. Roden’s books are great reads, social history firsthand, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the read. I’ve learned an enormous amount esp from jewish Food amount

      Liked by 1 person

  5. chef mimi
    February 7, 2019

    These sound fabulous! I love the sauce but also the almonds in the meatballs. Brilliant.


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