If you couldn’t tell, I am really excited about this recipe. I stumbled upon it this winter, when I was craving some warm comfort food that was just a little healthier and easier than the options I already had. I finally stumbled onto the idea of making Swedish Meatballs. It has always been one of my favorite meals, ever since I was a little girl. My family has two recipes for Swedish Meatballs. The first is a more “made by Grandma” version that involves Cream of Mushroom soup and beef meatballs. They are amazing. So rich and creamy. We have another recipe that is a little more complex in flavor and take WAY longer to make. They are a pork meatball in a sauce that includes jelly and pickle juice. Yep, pickle juice. You can’t taste it, but it adds a briny, vinegar flavor to the sauce that goes so well with the pork. I love both recipes. So, I thought it would be the perfect option because I am currently working on a cookbook, and one of the parts to it is taking favorite recipes of mine and family recipes and making them healthier and easier. I won’t, however, compromise taste for health. If something is healthy but doesn’t taste good, no one is going to want to eat it.
You will want to eat this, let me tell you. Unless you’re vegetarian, or have something against meatballs in general or Swedish Meatballs specifically. These are the perfect balance between the classic, rich mushroom-y meatballs I grew up with, and the complex pork meatballs I make with my mom on holidays. The best part is it doesn’t use any canned soup, but still has a delicious flavor. To create this recipe, I went to Pinterest, my source for basically everything. Recipes, ideas for hairstyles and fashion, DIY ideas, presents to get people, and just to dream about things I will never have. As I was going through some wonderful recipes, nothing was really exactly what I wanted. So many of them were just made on the stovetop, which works, but I love the richness in flavor that happens with baked in an oven. Some of the recipes still called for canned cream soup, or were so complicated I could barely get through the recipe! Some even used frozen meatballs, which I have done too, when I want to make something mid-week and don’t have the time to make my own meatballs. Or if my meat is still frozen, which has happened to me more than once! So, I took bits and pieces from some of the recipes I found, along with the two I already know and love, and came up with the delicious dish you’re reading about now.
You may be wondering why it’s called “Sort-of Swedish Meatballs”. It’s actually something my husband said about them after we had eaten them for about three meals in a row. Basically, he said they are Swedish Meatballs, but they are so much better than what he thinks of when someone says “Swedish Meatballs”. That’s a complement I will take! I like the name, and since it’s a mashup for many different recipes, I thought the name really fit. It’s not a recipe you want to whip up on a hectic weeknight. It is a recipe you will want to make on a weekend, and since it heats up so well, you can eat it all week! It’s not the simplest recipe I’ve ever written, but it is well worth the extra effort, I promise!
As I mentioned, I love the mushroom-y quality of the meatballs of my childhood, so I thought putting sliced mushrooms in this would give it that flavor and look really nice too! I use sliced baby portabellas most of the time, because I love how they taste! For this, I think sliced white mushrooms would also be really tasty. I cook down the mushrooms in a pot about the size of a dutch oven. If you have a dutch oven, use that, then you don’t have to dirty a casserole dish! I don’t have one (yet). I use a little olive oil and season them with some salt and pepper. When they are tender and slightly caramelized, remove them from the pot and set them aside.
While the mushrooms are cooking, I put together the meatballs. I combine the meatball ingredients in a big bowl and mix with my hands until everything is evenly distributed, without mixing so much that the meatballs become tough.
I roll them into 1-inch meatballs, but if you have a preference of a bigger or smaller meatball, go with it! I them fry them in batches in the same pot that the mushrooms were in, with a little bit of olive oil, until browned on 3-4 sides. They won’t be cooked through. Once browned, I remove them to a plate and set them aside too, so I can make the gravy!
To make the gravy, I start with a roux. I put butter in the pot, along with whatever drippings are left from the meatballs. The amount of drippings left will depend on how lean your ground beef is. You want there to be about 1/3 cup of fat in the pot, because a roux is equal parts fat and flour. So, once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour, making sure it’s not lumpy. Cook it for about a minute, letting it bubble and get a little darker. Whisk it the whole time, because it will burn otherwise. Then, add the broth, and whisk until slightly thickened, a minute or two. I then add the cream, mushrooms and meatballs. If you’re using cream cheese instead of cream, add it before the mushrooms and meatballs. Make sure it is completely incorporated before adding anything else.
Once the meatballs and mushrooms are in, I season it with salt and pepper. I simmer it for about 10 minutes. If you want to finish the meatballs on the stove and dig in without putting it in the oven, I don’t blame you. Just make sure you season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.
If you want to take the little bit of extra time in the oven, preheat it to 350 degrees. If you used a dutch oven, it can go right in the oven. If you cooked the meatballs in a pot, transfer everything to a casserole that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Put it in the oven and cook until nice and bubbly, about 10-15 minutes.
I like to serve my Sort-of Swedish Meatballs over mashed potatoes, but they are also really good over cooked egg noodles.
I hope you try them. And I definitely hope you love them as much and my family and I do! Let me know in the comments!
Sort-of Swedish Meatballs
1 pkg sliced mushrooms
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
Half a medium onion, finely chopped
2 c panko or regular breadcrumbs
1/2 c milk
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Pinch dry mustard
3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
3-4 Tbsp butter, depending on volume of meatball drippings
1/3 c flour
4 c beef broth
1 c cream or 4 oz cream cheese
- If desired, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a dutch oven or large pot, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly caramelized. Remove from the pot and set aside.
- Meanwhile, combine beef, pork, onion, breadcrumbs, milk, worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, dry mustard and eggs in a large bowl. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Mix well until everything is combined. Roll into 1-inch meatballs.
- In pot that cooked mushrooms, add 2 Tbsp oil and return to medium heat. Fry meatballs, in batches, until browned on 3-4 sides. Remove to a plate and set aside. (Note: The meatballs will not be cooked through).
- Add butter to the pot with the meatball drippings. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, or until slightly darkened. Pour in the broth, and whisk constantly until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream, mushrooms and meatballs. Lower heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the gravy is thickened and meatballs are cooked through. Alternatively, simmer meatballs for 5 minutes to incorporate everything, then pour into a casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through and gravy is bubbling.
- Serve over mashed potatoes or cooked egg noodles.