Spanish Meatballs and Garlicky Green Beans

When I saw Mario Batalli with Gwynneth Paltrow in the September ’08 issue of Food & Wine,  I thought, “Hmm…interesting,” only briefly wondering what the two had in common, then continued on to scan the recipes since that’s what life is all about, right?  All that olive oil and garlic…potatoes and rice.  I love Spanish food.  But I missed the point the article was making about the connection between the two celebrities — the premier of a 13-part series called Spain…On the Road Again.

I have found out that at least in San Diego, PBS is running the series  in the middle of the night, so have set my DVR and begun to live vicariously through the Foodie Foursome which includes Mark Bittman and a lovely Spanish actress I’ve not seen before, Claudia Bassols.  Evidently, there was no specific route planned for the trip which was originally a “guys only” event.  Instead, the purpose was to travel from one place to the next enjoying locally produced meat, fish, and vegetables, to sample local wines, and to enjoy the traditional dishes of each region.  Oh, to be cruising through Spain in a caravan of expensive German cars.  Actually, just cruising through Spain would be fine with me since it’s been decades that I was there.  The countryside is gorgeous, and the cooking featured on the show seriously simple.  I’m loving the entire experience.  In fact, I’ve ordered the book, Spain:  A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali with Gwyneth Paltrow, just so I could sample some of the al fresco meals made during the trip.  Since my Penelope Casas’ La Cocina de Mama has been getting quite the workout lately, it’s about time I add something new.

Recently, we had meatballs and I’m left wondering why I never had meatballs when we lived in Spain.

There were meatballs?

Had I only known how delicious these particular meatballs were…

Spanish Meatballs and Garlicky Green Beans

Meatball Ingredients

3 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 white onion, chopped fine
1/2 bell pepper, chopped fine
1/4 lb. Roma tomatoes, grated (see below)
1-lb mix of very lean ground meat
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3 lg. eggs
3 T dried fine bread crumbs
flour for dusting

Sauce Ingredients

1/4 white onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped fine
1 tsp. flour
1 T tomato sauce
1/4 c. white wine
1 c chicken or veggie broth
Salt & Pepper


  1. To make the meatballs, first heat 1 T of olive oil in a skillet and saute the garlic, onion, and bell pepper slowly over low heat, stirring until softened and very aromatic, but do not brown them.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Cut a small piece from the tomato, and grate coarsely over a medium sized bowl to catch the juices and pulp. Discard the remaining piece of skin.  Add the ground meat to the tomato with salt and pepper, 1 egg, and bread crumbs.  With your hands, squeeze the ingredients together to mix well, and shape into balls about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in size.
  3. Mix remaining egg in a small bowl, and have a plate ready with the flour.  Heat remaining 2T olive oil in the same skillet you browned the veggies in, and roll each meatball first in the flour until covered, then dunk in the eggs.  Immediately put in the skillet to saute until browned on all sides.  When brown, remove to a platter to reserve.
  4. To make the sauce, in the same skillet add the second batch of chopped onions, garlic, and bell pepper, sauteeing them slowly until soft.  Stir in the flour, tomato sauce, wine, broth, and season to taste.  Cover the skillet and slowly simmer the sauce about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Transfer meatballs to the sauce, stirring gently, and cover, cooking until meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes.


Green Bean Ingredients

1 white onion, sliced thick
2 sprigs flat leafed parsley
4 cloves garlic (2 whole, 2 sliced)
3 T olive oil
1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 thick slices day old French bread, cubed
2 tsp. red wine vinegar


  1. In a medium saucepan, place the onion parsley, whole garlic and 1 T olive oil to boil in salted water.  After it boils, add the green beans and simmer until crisp tender about 10 minutes.  When they’re done, drain them through a fine meshed strainer and reserve.
  2. While the beans are cooking, heat a bit of the olive oil in a skillet and saute the bread cubes until they’re golden brown, shaking pan occasionally to brown all sides of cubes.  Remove to a plated lined with paper towels.
  3. Add the remaining olive oil to the same skillet and add the sliced garlic, stirring until fragrant and beginning to brown.  Add the greenbean mixture to the skillet, stirring to mix onions and garlic with the greenbeans.  Sprinkle the vinegar over and toss briefly, then pour onto a platter.  Add the browned bread cubes to the platter, and serve.

Recipe Notes:

  • This post was updated July, 2012 primarily to repair broken photo links, but in that time, I’ve continued to follow Spain…On the Road Again simply because it shares easy, delicious Spanish recipes — or recipes inspired by Spanish cooking.  As well, the book provides a great glimpse of so many varied regions of Spain with little bits and pieces of information that are great for helping to plan a trip there — especially if you’re a food lover.  There’s a bit of history included about each region — just enough to provide background.  Although I hope to return to Spain someday, the planning isn’t in the works quite yet, so I’ll have to dream.  The book and show episodes are a perfect diversion until I can return.
  • If you missed the PBS show, you can watch the episodes here.
  • These meatballs would be perfect for tapas — or any party for that matter.  Make a large amount and have the toothpick close by so guests can take a few as they mingle, but make sure they stay warm because they’re best that way.
  • Any ground meat would be good for the meatballs as long as it’s very lean.  I used veal and pork and the flavor was very nice.
  • Although the chopped veggies in the meatballs is great, they’re also good without the onion and bell pepper, or with other veggie combos.  Spanish food isn’t spicy, but I’d be hard pressed not to want to add some heat to these.  Even if it was dried red pepper flakes.  Some roasted jalapeno?  Mmmm….
  • Making meatballs has always been tedious for me.  Even the melon baller doesn’t make it fun — but if you make sure your hands are wet before you begin to form the balls, it certainly does make the job much less messy.
  • When you brown the balls, they get a bit flat here and there if you don’t watch them.  Brown them until they’re almost done inside.
  • Use tongs when dipping the balls in the egg.  Otherwise, you’ll have more coating on your fingers than the balls.
  • For the green beans, broad and flat are also fine.  The cooking time may need to be lengthened, though.
  • Very easy, yummy dish!