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Meatballs in a Fresh Tomato Sauce Rhodes Island-Style

Albondigas di karne kon tomat

About the Recipe

Meatballs cooked in tomato sauce, are one of the most popular home cooked meals.
The Sephardic version from the island of Rhodes is known as albondigas, derived from the Moorish–Spanish word al bundo, meaning round. These tender, juicy meatballs fragrant with fresh herbs are simple and easy to make cooked in a richly flavoured fresh tomato sauce.
Albondigas make a wonderful comfort food for family gatherings and are a winner with kids. I like to serve these meatballs alongside a rice pilaf or pasta with a green leafy salad. Enjoy sharing with your family this weekend 🍅


For the meatballs:

1lb (500g) ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped (¼ cup)

1 – 2 eggs

⅔ cup stale white bread, crusts removed, grated

1 ripe tomato, halved and coarsely grated (about 1 tbsp)

½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more to serve

¼ cup finely chopped fresh dill

1 tsp ground cumin (optional)

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and ground black pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce:

3 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tender celery stalk with leaves, finely sliced

2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped ripe tomatoes or canned crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 tsp sugar

½ cup hot chicken stock or water

For dusting:

¼ cup all-purpose flour spread on a plate

To serve:

chopped flat-leaf parsley


Prepare the meatballs: Combine meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Knead well. Cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Make the tomato sauce: In a wide shallow saucepan, heat the oil, add the garlic and celery and fry for 1 minute. Add all the remaining tomato sauce ingredients and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes.

Shape the meatballs: With dampened hands shape into about 30 small meatballs. Roll the meatballs in the flour to coat lightly, patting off the excess, and arrange on a prepared tray.

Drop the meatballs gently into the pan with the tomato sauce. When all the meatballs have been added, pour in a little hot water, if necessary, to ensure that the sauce comes about halfway up the meatballs.

Cover and continue to cook at a very low simmer for 15 minutes, until the meatballs are tender and the sauce has thickened. Shake the pan from time to time to ensure the sauce evenly coats the meatballs and prevents them from sticking to the pan. Add a little more hot water if necessary.

To serve: Scatter with chopped parsley.

Twists on Tradition:

➢ Add a pinch of Turkish red pepper flakes to the meat ball mixture for an extra bite.

➢ I like to add pitted green olives to the tomato sauce and when serving I top with toasted pine nuts for that extra crunch.

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