Slow Simmered Spanish Meatballs with Green Olives

Spanish meatballs accented with an olive sauce.

Spanish meatballs accented with an olive sauce.  (Annie Sibonney, Olives from Spain)

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"This recipe is inspired from my mother's meatball stew with green olives that I grew up eating," says Chef Annie Sibonney. "The combination of the rich, briny green olives cooked with slow simmered beef, tomatoes and aromatic spices is true comfort to me."


For the Saffron Water

  • 1 pinch Spanish saffron threads, lightly crushed in the palm of your hand
  • 1/4 cup hot water

For the Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb
  • 1 small potato, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Sauce

  • 3 tomatoes, seeded and grated
  • 1 small red onion, grated
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 2 to 3 pinches hot Spanish paprika (or substitute ground cayenne pepper)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup saffron water (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups green Olives From Spain, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Prepare the Saffron Water:

  • Toast the saffron strands in a warm skillet over low heat for 1 minute. Crumble the toasted saffron strands into the 1/4 cup hot water and set aside.

Prepare the Meatballs:

  • Combine the potato, onion, red bell pepper, parsley in a food processor and process until very finely chopped, but not yet a paste.

Step 2

  • In a separate bowl, combine the vegetable mixture with the ground beef or lamb, cumin, egg, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the meat mixture for at least 30 minutes or until ready to cook.

Step 3

  • Shape the meat mixture into meatballs, approximately 2 inches in diameter and set aside. The mixture should yield 12-16 meatballs.

Prepare the Sauce:

  • Place a 12-inch deep skillet (with lid) or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the grated onion, garlic, olive oil, saffron water, paprika, salt, 3/4 cup of the parsley and hot water.

Step 2

  • Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer gently for about 7-10 minutes. Add the meatballs one by one, to poach in the sauce and continue to cook, covered, for 15 mins, gently shaking the pan to ensure even cooking.

Step 3

  • Add the green olives and continue cooking, covered, for 20-30 minutes longer until all the flavors are deep and melded together. Add the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper.

Step 4

  • Garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup parsley and serve piping hot straight from the pan. This recipe is wonderful spooned over rice or accompanied by rustic, crusty bread to soak up the sauce.