Easy dinner recipes: Three great meatball dishes in an hour or less

Easy dinner recipes: Three great meatball dishes in an hour or less
The tender albondigas at Cafe Sevilla are made with beef and pork and two kinds of cheese.Read the recipe » (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Meatballs. They're so easy and versatile. Whether you add them to pasta or soups, stuff them in sandwiches or savor them on their own, they're a simple -- and tasty -- comfort-food classic.

Loaded meatballs: Classic meatballs are like meatloaf, but miniature. These come together with a handful of ingredients and, in this recipe, are served with a liquor-"loaded" beef-based sauce. Skip the sauce if you'd like a basic marinara, and serve over pasta or tucked into a tender roll for a hearty sandwich.

Cafe Sevilla's albondigas (meatballs): These are some of the best meatballs I've had in a long time. Roasted garlic, fresh basil and cilantro, along with dried oregano, Spanish paprika and grated Manchego cheese lend rich, deep flavor to these tender pork-and-beef meatballs. Go ahead and plan to make a double batch — they go quickly. You can find the recipe below.

Grilled lamb meatballs: For a slight twist on this classic, use ground lamb as your base, flavoring the mixture with fresh mint and garlic, cumin and a touch of Aleppo pepper. Stuff the meatballs in tender fig leaves and throw on the grill for a dinner that comes together in about an hour.



Total time: 50 minutes | Serves 10 to 12

Note: Adapted from Cafe Sevilla in Riverside. To roast garlic, cut off the pointy top of the head of garlic clove to expose the tips of the cloves. Place the garlic on a small sheet of foil, cut end facing up. Drizzle a little olive oil over the cut end of the garlic head, and sprinkle a pinch each of salt and pepper. Wrap the garlic head in the foil and roast in the oven at 325 degrees until the cloves have softened, about an hour.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups minced onion, from about 1 large onion

4 ounces roasted garlic, puréed (about 1/3 cup), see Note

About 1/2 cup (3/4 ounce) chopped fresh basil leaves

About 1/2 cup (3/4 ounce) chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon Spanish paprika

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

2 eggs

1 cup plain bread crumbs

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1 cup grated Manchego or Parmesan cheese

Chopped parsley, for serving

1. In a sauté pan warmed over medium heat, combine the olive oil and onions, cooking the onions until they soften and become translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and place the onions in a large mixing bowl.

2. To the bowl, add the roasted garlic, basil, cilantro, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Set the mixture aside until the onion has cooled to room temperature.

3. In the cooled onion mixture, stir the eggs and bread crumbs, then the ground pork, beef and cheese, mixing with your hands until uniform and fully combined.

4. Divide the mixture into 36 meatballs, each about 1/4 cup. The meatballs may be covered and refrigerated at this point up to three days before cooking.

5. To cook the meatballs, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the meatballs out onto foil- or parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them an inch or so apart for even cooking.

6. Cook the meatballs until firm and golden and an inserted thermometer reaches 165 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through cooking for even heating and coloring. Serve garnished with parsley.

Each of 12 servings: calories 284; protein 19 grams; carbohydrates 13 grams; fiber 2 grams; fat 17 grams; saturated fat 7 grams; cholesterol 86 mg; sugar 2 grams; sodium 480 mg