My grandmother was Norwegian, and being tall, blonde, and blue eyed, when people ask, I always say “I’m Norwegian,” even though I’m only a quarter.  My grandparents are all gone and I miss them all the time, my grandmothers especially, they were both incredibly strong women.

NorwegianMeatballs (4)

NorwegianMeatballs (5)We have a few relics left behind by my grandma the Norwegian, a few gnomes, trolls, Norway’s flag, and two painted ceramic tiles reading  “Takk for Maten” and “Velkommen.”  I hear people tell of sitting on the kitchen counter as a kid while grandma cooked, and I wish I had those memories but I don’t.  I know they were great cooks but my culinary interest didn’t come from them, it came much later in life for me.  Still, my grandma served lefse with every Thanksgiving dinner.  I thought lefse was as much of a Thanksgiving Day staple as the turkey, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (all of which I rolled up in my lefse with butter, sort of a Norwegian taco).

NorwegianMeatballs (3)

The Norwegian meatball recipe is being carried on by my dad, he is a master, and an excellent cook himself, but I finally got around to making his recipe for the first time.  When I told him I made them and was going to put them on the blog here is his email to me (I’m assuming all his information is accurate)…

“You might mention that Norwegians are some of the best meatball makers in the world.  I actually prefer their meatballs to the Italian variety.  They do not normally put cheese in their meatballs, which makes them firmer and less moist but they are always served with pan gravy which provides moisture and flavor.  Swedish meatballs are a slight variation from the Norwegian variety.  The Swedes use milk rather than water for their gravy which makes the gravy a milkier color and richer if you use whole milk (which I’m sure they did in the glory days).  I’m glad that you are carrying on the tradition.  The kids love those meatballs and I’m sure yours will too.”

He was right, I think my 11 month old had a couple meatballs all to himself.  We all loved NorwegianMeatballs (2)them, they are a perfect comfort food, rolled up in lefse, and served with roasted veggies and mashed potatoes.  I like their texture with a little Parmesan in them, the Italians do know what they are doing.  They freeze well right in the gravy, so I saved a few dinners worth for later.  

The older we get I think we all wish we got more time with our grandparents generation.  They gave us a tremendous childhood, more ice cream bars than our parents would have approved of, and recipes that we will pass down to our kids and grandkids.   

Recipe: Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse

Ingredients

  • For the Meatballs
  • 1 small onion, small dice, olive oil, salt and pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c breadcrumbs
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 6 grinds pepper
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan
  • For the Gravy
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 T butter (divided)
  • 6 T flour
  • 1 quart beef stock (enough to reach desired thickness)

lefse for serving

Instructions

  1. In a saute pan on low heat, caramelize onion until golden brown in a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, stir occasionally, about 30 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, mix all other meatball ingredients in a large bowl, including onions when they are done
  3. Form into meatballs and set on a sheet pan. They should be about golf ball size, use an ice cream scoop to portion. About 14 to 16 meatballs depending on the size.  (this can be done ahead of time up to this point and kept in the fridge)
  4. Preheat oven to 400
  5. Heat a large pot or dutch oven with 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter over medium high heat. Brown the meatballs on one side then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side). Cook meatballs in about 3 batches so you do not crowd the pan. When done return them to the sheet pan (don’t worry that it had the raw meatballs on them, you will be baking the whole thing)
  6. Place pan in oven for about 15 minutes to cook the meatballs through
  7. Meanwhile over medium low heat, melt remaining 2 T butter in the same pot you browned the meatballs.  Make a roux by mixing in the flour and letting it cook for about a minute while whisking
  8. Whisk in beef stock slowly, scrapping the bits from the bottom of the pan until the sauce thickens.  Only use enough stock to for a gravy-like consistency.  As the stock and roux mixture heat it will start to thicken into a gravy
  9. Add meatballs to the gravy and simmer about 15 minutes or on very low until ready to serve
  10. Serve meatballs and gravy (break meatballs in half if they are too big to fit easily) rolled in lefse

Preparation time: 40 minute(s)NorwegianMeatballs

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 

Number of servings (yield): 6

Microformatting by hRecipe.

Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse
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  • Susan

    My husband is Norwegian and we make lefse every year and serve it with our Christmas Eve dinner. I’d like to try your meatball recipe but my young granddaughter is allergic to egg and soy. What would you suggest as a substitute for the breadcrumbs and egg?

    • Hi Susan, I am not very familiar with allergies but I have a couple suggestions. A company called Ian’s Natural Foods http://iansnaturalfoods.com/allergy-friendly-products/ makes soy free breadcrumbs. Try mixing the breadcrumbs with a few tablespoons of milk to act as a binder for the meatballs and leave the eggs out completely. If your granddaughter is able to eat a certain kind of bread you could also make your own breadcrumbs from that bread, again mix them with a little milk instead of the eggs. Also, a fattier meat will bind together better, making it easier to leave the eggs out. I hope this helps, I think the overall flavor of the meatballs will still be delicious with the substitutes. Good luck!

  • Laura

    Scandinavian meatballs usually have nutmeg in them, also. And are in cooked in water/broth which makes them a lighter meatball.

    • Hi Laura, I will have to try them with the addition of nutmeg. I like getting the caramelized crust on the meatballs by searing them first in the pan. I think it adds a lot of flavor, then finishing the cooking in the gravy. Although I’ve had some delicious meatballs cooked in broth too!

    • Hi Laura, I’d like to give the nutmeg a try, I love nutmeg. I think the caramelized crust on the meatballs from searing them first gives them a lot of flavor. Although I have had meatballs cooked in broth that are delicious too!

  • Rumrunner

    While in Juperland and Skudeneshaven I am sure I don’t remember seeing any Olive Trees. Lots of Torsk but not olives.

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