Of all the dishes made with ground beef, meatballs are probably my favorite. There’s something just so comforting about the golf ball-size globes of meat, which depending on how much time you have to spare, can be fried, baked, steamed or braised in sauce.
Being a family of pasta lovers, we eat plenty of Italian meatballs in red sauce. Come winter (or after any visit to IKEA), we add Swedish meatballs to the menu. Typically paired with buttered egg noodles instead of spaghetti, or skewered on toothpicks as an appetizer, they’re flavored with nutmeg, ginger and allspice instead of parsley, garlic and grated Parmesan cheese. Finally, they are served with a creamy, roux-based sauce made with beef broth, heavy cream and sour cream. Now all together say, “Yum!”
While many recipes call for frying the meatballs before adding them to the sauce, I prefer roasting them so I don’t stress over the balls falling apart in the pan when they are browned. Cooking the meatballs in the oven also eliminates the need for additional oil or butter in a recipe that already counts a fair amount of fat.
I made the meatballs in advance, stored them in the fridge and brought them to room temperature before adding them to the sauce. A trip to IKEA for its iconic lingonberry jam wasn’t possible because of the pandemic, so I served them with jellied cranberry sauce instead for a sweet-tart contrast.
Swedish meatballs in cream sauce
For the meatballs:
3 slices soft white bread, torn into pieces
½ cup whole milk, warmed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ yellow onion, minced (about ½ cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Olive oil for pan
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef broth or stock
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Cooked egg noodles, for serving
Chopped parsley, for garnish
Cranberry sauce or jelly, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place breadcrumbs in a small bowl and cover with warm milk. Stir to combine, then set aside.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan or skillet. Cook onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Transfer onion into a large bowl and add ground beef, ground pork, eggs, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and the moistened breadcrumbs. Season with a generous pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.
Drizzle a little olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and evenly coat the entire surface.
Roll the meat mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1½ inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.
Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. (Alternatively, you can fry the meatballs in batches in oil or butter until well browned on the outside and cooked through.) Transfer to a plate.
Make sauce: In a large saucepan (I used a 12-inch cast-iron skillet), melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle in flour. Stir with a whisk until flour browns, about 3 minutes, to get rid of the raw flavor. Whisk in broth and heavy cream. Then season with salt and pepper.
Simmer, whisking regularly, until reduced to a sauce, about 5 minutes. Then stir in the sour cream and mustard. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add meatballs to sauce, and gently stir to combine. Allow meatballs to simmer in sauce until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Spoon meatballs onto cooked egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with cranberry sauce/jelly on the side.
Makes 8 servings.