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Spanish Meatballs Saffron Tomato Sauce, Food Gypsy

Spanish Meatballs in Saffron Tomato Sauce

  • Author: Cori Horton
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 90 Minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 - 6 1x


Spanish Meatballs in Saffron Tomato Sauce is a riff on traditional Spanish Tapas. Draped in a ripe, roasted tomato sauce this recipe takes advantage of late summer tomatoes for a meatball stew that’s smokey and rich with a hint of bitterness, a dash of heat and a big blast of Spanish olive flavour. Perfect comfort food for cool nights and big gatherings… let there be wine!


Units Scale

Spanish Meatballs:

  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Manchego or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped green (Spanish) olives
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Saffron Tomato Sauce:

  • 812 Roma tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 12 yellow onions, quartered
  • 12 whole heads of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 12 cups olives, whole


  1. Preheat your oven to 375⁰f (190⁰c) Rough chop tomatoes and onions into quarters (or halves, depending on size). Cut top off of whole garlic bulb to reveal the cloves.  Arrange tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a shallow roasting pan.  Drizzle with a good slick of olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste then roast at 375⁰f (190⁰c) for about 40 minutes or until everything is well colored and tender. Remove from oven and cool.
  2. While your tomatoes are roasting, mix your meatballs.  Grate your onions into a small bowl.  Chop olives fine and reserve. Add ground turkey and pork to a large bowl, then add breadcrumbs, garlic, grated onions, chopped olives, grate cheese right into the mix, then add oregano, smoked paprika, a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper, and egg. Fold with a wooden spoon to combine then mix LIGHTLY by hand.
  3. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment or Silpat. Portion meatballs using a portion scoop or spoon and place them, evenly spaced, on your baking sheet.  Shape meatballs by hand gently rolling them between your palms.
  4. By now your tomatoes (etc) should be ready and well roasted, remove them from the oven to cool.
  5. Replace roasted tomatoes with your tray of Spanish meatballs.  Roast meatballs at 375⁰f (190⁰c) for 30 – 40 minutes depending on size.
  6. While the meatballs cook, we finish our sauce.  In a small bowl add saffron and about a tablespoon of water, allow to steep. Pour or scoop roasted tomatoes and onions into a large saucepot. Squeeze roasted garlic blubs to remove the juicy garlic cloves. Add beef broth and blend with an immersion blender until MOSTLY smooth.  It’s a rustic sauce, it’s okay if it’s a bit chunky. Add steeped saffron (with liquid), chili flakes, and bay leaves and simmer over low heat for 20 – 30 minutes.
  7. Remove meatballs from the oven and cool slightly. Add olives to your sauce and stir, over low heat.  Now add meatballs and allow them to reheat before serving. And… EAT… with crispy bread.


Meatball Tips:

  • Use a portion scoop for size and constancy.
  • Coat your hands with olive oil to avoid the ground meat sticking to your hands.
  • Never overwork, or use a mixer. Nobody likes tough, spongy meatballs.


  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: Spanish

Keywords: Spanish Meatballs