Swedish Meatballs

Almost everybody loves a good meatball. There are hundreds of recipes, family favorites, etc. It is even a term of endearment when I call my beloved niece "Ashley, you meatball."

So when I read that Ikea is opening in Kansas this fall, I was very excited. The Swedish superstore has been popular on both coasts for decades. Inexpensive yet well designed merchandise is their trademark. My favorite trademark is their meatballs. It’s somewhat of a cliché but good Swedish meatballs are rather addicting. Ikea has a café and sell packages of frozen meatballs. I always kept some of theirs in the freezer.

I spent three wonderful weeks in Sweden, a beautiful place with sparkling fiords and a fierce dedication to keep their pristine country clean.

Certainly I spent a lot of time sampling their famous smorgasbord, gravlax, lingonberries, smoked fish, and of course lots and lots of meatballs.

So having meatballs in the freezer is a wonderful thing. For the hometown crowd, meatballs in BBQ sauce works. More upscale? Use current jelly and port wine for a sauce. For the kids try jarred spaghetti sauce.

Being a foodie, I also make my own meatballs. A good meatball is not a hard packed ball of ground beef, dry and crumbly, but rather tender, flavorful and moist. Time spent making meatballs for the freezer will give you heads up on unexpected company or when you are just too stressed out to think about dinner.

The following recipe made the food circuit years ago and provides a gravy that kids (and adults) love.

Cook's tip: Adding a bit of cooking oil to butter keeps the butter from burning when sautéing.

Gravy Meatballs

  • 2 slices fresh white bread
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • A pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 pound ground chuck
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Tear the bread into small pieces and place in a small mixing bowl along with the milk.

In a 12-inch pan over medium low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until the onions are soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Combine the bread and milk mixture, ground chuck, pork, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, nutmeg and onions. Mix well. Form meatballs into 1-ounce round portions.

Heat the remaining butter in the pan over medium-low heat. (add some cooking oil) Add the meatballs and sauté until golden brown on all sides, about seven to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.

Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet. Whisk until lightly browned, approximately one to two minutes. Gradually add the beef stock and whisk until sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the gravy and serve.

Quick Sauce for Ikea Meatballs

  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 package frozen cooked meatballs, thawed

Whisk together the beef stock, heavy cream, flour, soy sauce, black pepper and rosemary in a large saucepan until smooth. Cook and stir over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the meatballs, and continue cooking until meatballs are heated through, about five more minutes.

Lonnie Gandara Taylor is a St. Joseph native who has returned home after a prestigious career in the culinary field. She taught cooking classes in the San Francisco Bay area for years and was a professional assistant to Julie Child, James Beard, Martha Stewart, Simone Beck and Martin Yan, among others. She is a graduate of the Paris Cordon Bleu, the Academie du Vin in Paris and the first culinary class held in the Oriental hotel in Bangkok, as well as being the author of five cookbooks.