Dinnertime Destination: Swedish Meatballs
What kid doesn't like meatballs and noodles?
One of the greatest ways to teach our children about other cultures is through food. We may not be able to jet off to explore far and distant lands every week, but here in Seattle, with a wealth of international restaurants and grocery stores on our doorstep, we can explore these other countries through their cuisine.
In this first installment of Dinnertime Destinations, we take a culinary trip to Sweden to enjoy their famous and flavorful meatballs. Meatballs can be found in most cuisines around the globe, but the Swedish version is served with a creamy gravy over buttered egg noodles, and with a delicious and tart berry sauce that will have your kids begging for seconds.
Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)
2 slices soft white bread
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (such as canola)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork or veal
½ cup chopped Italian parsley, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon pepper (white is traditional if you have it, but black works perfectly fine)
1 egg, beaten
2 ½ cups beef broth, divided
1 12oz package egg noodles
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
Splash of cream
Optional, for serving: lingonberry preserves (usually found in most supermarkets, Scandinavian Specialities in Ballard and IKEA; cranberry sauce makes a fine substitute)
Heat your oven to 350°F.
Crumble the bread as fine as you can into a large bowl, then pour over the milk. Let it stand for around 10 minutes, until all the milk has been absorbed.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onions. Sauté for five minutes, until the onion is brown and has softened. Transfer the onion to the bread mixture, then add the meat, parsley, salt, spices and the egg. Mix gently with your hands until combined, then form into 1” balls.
Place the skillet back over medium heat, add a little more oil if needed, then brown the meatballs on all sides in batches, around five minutes per batch. Transfer the browned meatballs to an oven-proof dish that fits them snugly in a single layer, pour ½ cup beef broth over them, then cover the pan with foil.
Place in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.
Noodles and Gravy
While the meatballs are cooking, boil a large pot of water and cook the noodles according to package directions, usually around 8 minutes. Drain the noodles, toss with the butter, then set aside.
When the meatballs are done, pour the drippings from the pan into a saucepan and place over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes until pale brown in color, then slowly whisk in the remaining 2 cups beef broth. Cook until gravy has thickened, around 5 minutes, stirring often. Whisk in the cream, then season with salt and pepper. Serve gravy over meatballs and noodles, sprinkle with remaining parsley, and offer lingonberry preserves on the side.
(Note: These are often traditionally (and just as deliciously) served with boiled potatoes instead of noodles. )
Fun facts about Sweden to share with your kids:
- Sweden’s official name is The Kingdom of Sweden.
- The main language is Swedish, but the country has 5 other official languages (Finnish, Yiddish, Sami, Meänkieli and Romani).
- Sweden is connected to the neighboring Denmark by a bridge.
- Half of Sweden is covered by forests, but it also has over 100,000 lakes and over 24,000 islands.
Anything by ABBA!
Don’t feel like cooking but still want to explore Swedish food? Here are some fun restaurant options to try around Seattle:
601 SW 41st St., Seattle, www.ikea.com/us
Nestled in the depths of the giant blue and yellow store, the IKEA restaurant offers families a very affordable meal out, with plates of their own meatballs, potatoes, and plenty of lingonberry jam. Vegetarians can now join the fun, as IKEA recently rolled out a new vegetable ball, called grönsaksbullar. For an even more affordable meal out, take the kids on a Tuesday and they eat for free.
6719 15th Ave NW, Seattle, scanspecialties.com
This charming storefront in Ballard stocks all of your favorite Scandinavian pantry goods, and also runs a deli offering fresh cheeses and homemade sausages. If you’d rather eat in, there’s a café serving potato lefse wraps, traditional open-faced sandwiches (smørbrød) and more. Thinking of throwing a Scandinavian-themed party? They also cater.
2000 4th Ave., Hotel Andra, Seattle, hotelandra.com
Leave the kids at home for this one, but if you’re looking for a fun option for date night, Ändra Loft is a Scandinavian-themed bar in the modern and hip Hotel Ändra in Downtown. Relax in one of their stylish club chairs with your Swedish cocktail (aquavit anyone?) or enjoy some Scandinavian small bites prepared for you by the Tom Douglas team. Ändra Loft also serves small plates from Douglas’ restaurant Lola, located just downstairs from the bar.
Cheers! Or, as they say in Sweden: Skål!
Jo Eike enjoys working with her two kids to come up with delicious but not-too-difficult dinner ideas that parents and kids are highly likely to love.