The Cookbook

A collection of favorite recipes

Albondigas de Lina

Posted by Sylvia on Wed 23 July 2008

When Lina was first looking for extra work to do, she offered to help me in the kitchen. I tried to teach her to cook and showed her some of my simple recipes but it didn’t seem to go very well. Then one day when Cliff was in London and I was struggling to meet a deadline she offered to just make me something quickly. I agreed and left her to it. Half an hour later she served me the most amazing dish of meatballs in sauce. I stopped trying to give her recipes and asked her to make whatever she fancied – which has had a lot to do with my weight gain over the past few years. Anyone who has been to our house knows that Lina is an excellent cook – she simply isn’t very good at following someone else’s recipe.

Albondigas, the traditional meatballs in tomato sauce, continue to be a firm favourite of visitors and Lina probably makes it a few times a month during the winter. Full credit to Yvonne, who spent the morning in the kitchen following Lina around so that we could get this recipe.

Note: Lina doesn’t measure anything-ever as far as I can see but the recipe is straight-forward enough that you should be able to eyeball it.

She was a bit nervous about a list of ingredients at all, making a point of telling Yvonne that you should make it to taste rather than stick to the exact recipe. “She wants to make them like you do,” I told Lina. “She can but I change things all the time,” she said and proceeded to list variations. Leave out the garlic and add in onion. Use a different herb instead of parsley. Add grated vegetable like carrots or green peppers. Use pork instead of beef or a mixture of the two. This was, Lina said repeatedly, simply one way she made albondigas and certainly not the only way. Make it the way you like it best, she said.

She thought about it for a moment and then pointed at the sheet of paper. “But you have to add the sherry. That’s not optional.”

Albondigas de Lina

  • Minced (ground) beef
  • Chopped garlic (or onion or grated vegetable)
  • Chopped parsley
  • Sherry
  • Egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper
  • Breadcrumbs
  • flour for dipping

Add all the ingredients except the flour in a large bowl. Mix well with your hands and then shape the results into meatballs. Roll the balls in flour to stop them from sticking. You can stop at this point and leave them sit out or even freeze them.

Pour about ¾ inches of oil in a large deep-sided pan and heat to a high temperature. Gently place the meatballs in the oil and allow them to fry, turning occasionally, until cooked, about 5 minutes.


Tomato purée
Fresh basil (whole leaves)
a little water.

Note: Lina uses “fried tomato purée” which I’ve seen for sale in the UK as passata. You could also use tinned (canned) tomatoes: cook until soft and then purée them.

Place the fried meatballs in a sauce pan and then add the tomato, basil and water. Don’t panic if some oil goes in the pan. Stir it all together making sure that the meatballs are well coated and the sauce nearly covers them. Cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 15 minutes.

Serve immediately.