Lightened-Up Swedish Meatballs


My cookbook collection was taking over the dining room. What started as a few carefully selected books calling the top of the radiator home had become a mess of books stacked every which way and cluttering up the space. Even our marble bookends couldn’t keep the heavy stack upright, and when they came crashing down for the millionth time, we realized that we needed some real shelves in the space. You totally see where this is going, right? Yup… we talked about going to Ikea and buying some shelves to turn into a fake built-in.

Which inevitably lead me to crave Swedish meatballs (which is funny, considering I don’t particularly care for the ones that Ikea serves.) Anyway, we never made it to Ikea but a few weeks later the idea of Swedish meatballs was still nagging at me. Traditional Swedish meatballs are very heavy though — full of pork and beef, fried in ungodly amounts of butter, and coated in cream — and well, stores are already selling bathing suits….

I found a recipe from Elise that looked easy enough to lighten up and I made a few substitutions: extra-lean turkey instead of red meat, baking instead of frying, way less butter. Served over egg noodles and next to some sauteed chard, these Swedish meatballs made a delicious meal that definitely satisfied my craving. (If you’re wondering, the cookbooks have been relocated to a better shelf in the living room where they stay put without any bookends.)

Kitchen Tip: We don’t eat a lot of bread, so I don’t buy it very often. When we do buy it, it tends to get stale before we can eat it all. I’ve taken to throwing the past few end pieces into a bag in the freezer to use as fresh breadcrumbs, which yield softer meatballs than “regular” bread crumbs. Just pull out a frozen pice of bread or two, smash it with a mallet to make crumbs, and let it defrost for a few minutes.

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Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Risotto 1

Spicy Pork Meatballs with Parmesan Risotto

I’ve been on a meatball kick lately. They aren’t something that I typically make very often, but lately I can’t seem to get enough. It’s funny, because when I was a little kid I actually hated meatballs. I remember sitting in my high-chair throwing them (and making a huge mess) and demanding that my mom rinse off the sauce and give me ketchup instead (ew). But lately, I’ve been craving the familiar comfort of this dish — from classic spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs to meatballs with sauerbraten sauce over egg noodles.

When I recently learned that there’s a restaurant in New York City entirely devoted to these tender balls of ground meat simmered in sauce (The Meatball Shop), I immediately browsed their menu and decided what I would order if I went. And then I made it. (PS I went to the Shop this past weekend and it’s every bit as wonderful as you’d expect!)

For as often as I make risotto, I never thought to pair it with red sauce. When I saw that The Meatball Shop offers it as a side dish though, I was immediately sold on the idea. It’s such a nice change from pasta, and it gives the dish an entirely different feel. It makes spaghetti and meatballs seem like kids food; this is for grown ups. Meant to be eaten lazily by candle-light while drinking red wine, served with a side of bitter greens (in this case, with some sauteed broccoli rabe).


The parmesan risotto that I made was a very simple backdrop for the bold meatballs and sauce, but the cheese also gave it enough flavor to hold its own. It was delicious both mixed with the sauce and eaten plain. I took my time and cooked the risotto very slowly, allowing each grain of rice to absorb what seemed like an impossible amount of broth and resulting in the perfect al dente rice suspended in a rich and creamy sauce. If my risotto looks a little ark, it’s because I used Kitchen Basics chicken stock. I really like the flavor of this stock, but it’s a lot darker than other brands — it almost looks like beef stock when you pour it from the carton. If you use a different brand of stock (or homemade), your risotto will probably be whiter.

I also used a jar of Bertolli Spicy Arribata Sauce that I received a while back as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program. The sauce was really good — nice and thick and not too spicy. I added some crush red pepper to kick things up a bit. If you’re using a different sauce, you might want to increase the amount of spice to your liking.


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