Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse are my grandmother’s recipe in a delicious gravy sauce. Rolled up in traditional lefse, they are kid-friendly and loved by all. Double the recipe to stock your freezer and use in any meatball recipe!
My Norwegian Grandmother
My grandmother was Norwegian. 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.
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 wish I had childhood memories of sitting on the kitchen counter while grandma cooked, but I really don’t.
I know they were great home 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. As a kid, I rolled my whole meal up in lefse with butter, sort of a Norwegian taco.
The Norwegian meatball recipe is carried on by my dad. He is a master meatball maker, and an excellent cook! I finally made his meatball recipe myself for the first time. When I told him, 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! My 11 month old ate 2 whole meatballs himself. We all loved them. Rolled up in lefse, they are the perfect comfort food. They go well with simple sides like roasted veggies or mashed potatoes. I agree with the Italians, adding Parmesan cheese gives them great texture. I’ve forgotten the cheese before and realized how much difference it makes. The Italians know meatballs!
Versatile Homemade Meatballs
Years later, after making my dad’s meatball recipe many many times, I’ve found that they are just perfect homemade meatballs and the same recipe can be used in many meatball meals. I always double the recipe and use them for Meatball Subs or in Spaghetti instead of the ground beef. They make a great Sweet and Sticky Party Appetizer Meatball, or just eaten plain with mashed potatoes and a green veggie. They are so versatile and can be frozen raw to be used in different ways, or frozen in their sauce.
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.
Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse
For the Meatballs
- 1 small onion small dice (olive oil, salt, pepper)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 1 c breadcrumbs (panko or a finely chopped and crumbled frozen burger bun work great!)
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
- ½ c milk
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 t kosher salt
- 6 grinds fresh black pepper
- ½ c Parmesan cheese grated
For the Gravy
- 1 T olive oil
- 3 T butter divided
- 6 T flour
- 1 quart beef stock (or less, enough to reach desired thickness)
- lefse for serving
- In a large pot over low heat, caramelize onion until golden brown in a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, stir occasionally, about 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, mix all other meatball ingredients in a large bowl, including onions when they are doneForm 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)
- Preheat oven to 400°. Reheat the pot after removing the onions over medium high heat. Add 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter. Brown the meatballs on one side then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side). Cook meatballs in 2 or 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)
- Bake in oven for about 15 minutes to cook the meatballs through
- 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
- 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
- Add meatballs to the gravy and simmer on low until ready to serve. Serve meatballs and gravy (break meatballs in half if they are too big to fit easily) rolled in lefse