You know what happens when you get a bunch of Nordic people in the same room talking about meatballs? A lot of discussion! Turns out the Norwegian’s call them Norwegian meatballs and don’t understand how the Swedes got all the credit. Everyone varies the combinations of meat (beef, pork, and veal), cream, and breadcrumbs. Some even sniff at the breadcrumbs and insist on actual bread.
That’s what I discovered this weekend at the Nordic Food Festival near Boston, MA when I attended a lecture on Swedish Meatballs. My family has both Norwegian and Swedish blood coursing through our veins, but yes, we always called them Swedish meatballs too (sorry Andersons).
Variations make sense because this is a peasant dish, developed with what was around. It’s basically stale bread, leftover ground up meat, and a little cream to soften and flavor. We decided to take these elements and lighten up the dish. Enjoy this healthy Swedish meatball recipe.
- 1/2-pound ground beef (85% fat)
- 1/2-pound ground pork
- 1 small onion shredded on a grater
- 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon of heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Place the breadcrumbs and heavy cream in a small bowl and stir until the crumbs absorb the liquid.
- Place the ground meat into a large bowl, add the grated onion. Use the large holes on the grater.
- Add the moistened breadcrumbs and the salt & pepper, mix until thoroughly blended.
- Create 1″ diameter meatballs.
- Set a large griddle on medium-high heat, melt the butter to coat the griddle.
- Add the meatballs and cook until deeply browned, turn 5 or 6 times until all sides are cooked and nicely browned. In total, about 12 to 15 minutes cooking time.
- Serves four people, double the recipe if needed.
Cooking tips: Don’t get the leaner cuts of ground meat, the fat keeps the meatballs moist and most of it cooks off anyway. Keep the meatballs 1″ in diameter so they’ll cook more evenly, you’ll have a harder time with larger meatballs. You don’t need to butter the grill, but it does add a nice flavor, complementing the cream inside the meatball.
The cream sauce. We skipped it! Hey, we said healthier right? And there are a lot of empty calories in cream sauce. If you insist though here’s my Mom’s variation, circa 1974.
Swedish Meatball Cream Sauce Recipe (Ingredients)
- 1 can Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup
- about 1 cup of whole milk
- Place the soup into a large measuring cup
- Add milk until it reaches the 2 cup line
- Mix well and place in a small pan on medium heat on the stove.
- Warm thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Serve.
Ways to keep this healthy
We throttled down on the cream and bread crumbs compared to the average recipe, keeping the flavors but limiting the empty calories. If you’re going to use the sauce, do so sparingly, portion size makes a difference. Finally, instead of noodles or potatoes, we put our meatballs on a bed of spaghetti squash that we think has more flavor. Anytime you trade a starch for a vegetable it’s a win for your waistline.
How about you? How do you make Swedish meatballs? Or do you call them Norwegian meatballs? We’d love to hear your stories!
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