History tells us that meatballs were introduced to the region of Spain by the Moors, a people group who made their way up through the Iberian peninsula from northern Africa, and ruled for 800 years. They left their delicious mark on the cuisine, which can still be seen in many facets of Spanish gastronomy, particularly in the south. The word for meatball in Spanish (albóndiga) also has Arabic origins, like many other words in the language.
Meatballs were a very common street food during the Moorish period known as Al-Andalus. They were often cooked in water or vinegar, and served with different broths and sauces. Today you will still see meatballs cooked in very similar fashions, but of course, with varying ingredients, like the addition of pork and jamón ibérico.
This recipe comes from Córdoba, the same place we raise our Iberian pigs for all of our cured meats like chorizo and salchichón. This style of cooking is designed to take advantage of every part of the jamón— from the fat to the bone— and is a great way to use parts you would normally throw away.
You can enjoy these meatballs as an appetizer with your spread of Iberian charcuterie, or serve them as the main dish. Either way, you’re bound to fall in love with the rich history and unique flavors of southern Spanish cuisine.
Jamón Ibérico Meatballs in Broth Recipe
2 quarts water
Bones from 1 whole chicken
1 jamón bone
6 strands saffron
½ clove garlic
4 black peppercorns
½ lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
2 oz. jamón ibérico fat, diced
2 oz jamón ibérico, diced
3 eggs, separated
1 clove garlic
3 sprigs parsley
4 Tablespoons dried bread crumbs
- To make the broth, fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water and add the chicken bones and jamón bones.
- Bring the water to boil and let it continue to cook at a soft boil while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Using a mortar and pestle, blend saffron, ½ garlic clove, peppercorns, and a pinch of salt until it forms a tick paste. Add a tablespoon of broth to the mixture and stir to combine. Add the saffron mixture back into the pot of broth to combine.
- To make the meatballs, place the beef, pork, jamón fat, and jamón pieces in a large bowl and mix.
- Using a blender, blend 2 eggs, 1 egg white (save the yolk), parsley garlic, pepper, and salt until combined. (Keep in mind you won’t need to add too much salt, as the jamón pieces and the jamón bone in the broth will add a good amount of salinity.)
- Pour the egg mixture over the meat, along with the bread crumbs, and mix until combined and the mixture is nice and compact. The meatballs can be made one day in advance.
- Using your hands, shape the meatballs into small balls and cook them in the broth, being careful not to break them. Once they are cooked and still tender, remove them from the broth and set aside.
- Place a few tablespoons of broth into a small bowl to let cool. In a separate small bowl, whisk the remaining egg yolk and add a few tablespoons of cooled broth until smooth. Add the egg mixture back into the pot.
- Place the cooked meatballs into the pot and stir gently, being careful not to break them.
- Serve warm meatballs in a shallow bowl with a big ladle of broth.