If ever there’s a time for comfort food, it’s when winter temperatures start dipping into the negatives.
The difference between Italian and Swedish meatballs is truly insignificant. Many Italian recipes use a mix of ground beef and pork and so do Swedish recipes. Sometimes veal is also included, and each meat makes up a third of the total mix. If going this route, your easiest option would be to just grab the package of meatloaf mix from the grocery store. Although not traditional, we prefer a lighter meat, like ground turkey or chicken, for Swedish meatballs.
As for seasoning, the big difference is that you don’t include grated cheese in Swedish meatballs. Usually Italian herbs like basil and oregano are included in meatballs, but those are left out here too. Instead, what really sets them apart in taste is the inclusion of allspice. Allspice became prevalent with the English by the early 1600s, and its naming was based on the idea that it combined the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. We often view allspice as an ingredient for baking rather than cooking, yet it pairs well with many meats and can add noticeable depth to stews.
Another note on meatballs: use fresh bread rather than bread crumbs, especially when using a leaner meat like turkey or chicken. It doesn’t have to be any special bread, but the difference is noticeable. Fresh bread absorbs the milk and helps keep the meat moist.
You can serve Swedish meatballs with rice, egg noodles, mashed potatoes or anything else that will absorb some of the sauce. Any tart jam or even a not-too-sweet cranberry sauce makes for good dipping. You can leave it out if this is an entrée, but if serving as an appetizer, remember that everyone loves to dip. And if making these as an app, you’ll want to make them smaller and bake for a few minutes less.
In a medium sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. When melted, add the onion and cook until just softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
While the onion cooks, slice the bread into small cubes. Add the cubes to a large bowl and pour the milk over top. Let sit for a couple of minutes before adding the meat, egg, 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire sauce, half the parsley, the salt, pepper, allspice and nutmeg. When the onions are ready and have cooled slightly, add them to the bowl as well.
Grab a baking sheet, either greased or lined with parchment, and set it next to your bowl. Wet your hands then use them to combine the meat mixture. When combined, roll the meat into 1-inch balls and place on the baking sheet, leaving space between each one. Place the meatballs in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. If still pink in the center at 15 minutes, bake for another 5.
Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in the same pan you used to cook the onions. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and add the other tablespoon of butter. Melt, then add the flour. Cook the butter and flour for a couple of minutes until golden. Slowly whisk in the broth, using the whisk to combat any lumps. When combined, let simmer for several minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Then add the mushrooms, half and half, remaining nutmeg and teaspoon of Worcestershire and the parsley. Simmer another couple of minutes. Toss the meatballs with the sauce and serve.