Paella de Albóndigas

Albóndigas, small meatballs similar to koftas, are believed to have been brought to Spain by the Moors. The Spanish in turn introduced them to Mexico where they are often served in soup.  Paella, from the Spanish word for pan, is a rice dish cooked in an open pan on the stovetop making it a bit tricky to master. While in the US most people often think of paella as the wonderful Valenciana version made with seafood, chorizo, and saffron, it can be made with all sorts of ingredients as I have done here.


2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1 small red chile of medium heat, optional

1 egg

¼ cup masa harina

¼ cup water

1 pound ground beef, I used ground chuck

Flour or masa for dredging

Extra virgin olive oil

1 cup medium or short grain white rice

1 small onion, finely chopped

½ cup dry white wine

1 cup tomato sauce

2 cups beef, lamb, or chicken stock

Salt and pepper

6 ounces fresh or frozen green beans, preferably French cut


Put the garlic cloves in a food processor and mince finely. Add the onion and pepper, if using, and chop finely. Combine the egg, masa, and water with the vegetable in the food processor and process until smooth. Add the ground beef and pulse until well mixed and the consistency of a very thick mousse. It should be much smoother than an Italian-style meatball. Moisten your hands to prevent sticking and form the meat into small meatballs about 1 inch in diameter, about ¾ ounces each.

Heat about 2 tbsp. of the oil in a paella pan or wide shallow skillet. Working in batches, dredge the meatballs lightly in the masa or flour, shaking off any excess, and roll around in the pan until well browned. Replenish the oil between batches if needed. When done, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel.

Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan and when hot fry the onion and rice together until the onion is soft and the rice chalky, about 4 minutes. Pour in the wine and while it is cooking down spread the rice out evenly in the pan. Mix the tomato sauce and stock then pour half of it over the rice. Arrange the meatballs on top and pour in the rest of the liquid. Do not mix. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, shaking the pan from time to time, for 10 minutes. Strew the green beans on top and continue cooking, still shaking, until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Note that the rice will form a crust at the bottom of the pan. That is the sign of good paella.


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