Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse are my Grandmother's incredibly delicious recipe! Meatballs with brown gravy, rolled up in traditional lefse, are tender and amazing, kid-friendly and loved by all. Double the recipe to stock your freezer, this basic meatball recipe without the gravy is versatile and can be used in any meatball sauce!
Why We Love Them!
- Homemade Meatballs in brown gravy are AMAZING! - Homemade meatballs are just so so good! The flavor, the texture, there is just nothing like it!! Rolled up in lefse, think of it as the Scandanavian version of the tortilla, they are the perfect comfort food!
- These are just really amazing basic meatballs, Versatile with different sauces! - You are going to want to double the recipe and do some meatball meal prep! These meatballs are classic in flavor, and freezing meatballs is a great way to stretch your efforts! Freezing the meatballs raw or cooked without sauce means you can use them in different ways! Try them as Meatball Subs or Sweet & Sticky Appetizer Meatballs! Yes, the exact same homemade meatballs, lots of possibilities!
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 don't. I know they were great home cooks, but my culinary interest 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 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! After making his recipe myself for the first time, he sent me this email (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."
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.
For the Meatballs
- Onion - The onion is caramelized, slowly cooked over low heat until golden brown, bringing out it's natural sugars and flavor before getting mixed in with the meatballs.
- Ground Beef and Pork - A combination of ground beef and ground pork is a great mix.
- Eggs - Serve as a binder for the meatballs, holding their shape.
- Breadcrumbs - Helps the texture of the meatballs, making them not too dense.
- Worcestershire Sauce - Adds flavor.
- Milk - Combines with the breadcrumbs to keep the meatballs tender and juicy.
- Salt and Pepper - Enhances the flavor of all ingredients, do not skip!
- Parmesan Cheese - Really important for texture! The parmesan cheese gives the meatballs a soft delicate bite, making them juicy and delicious! Without it, your meatballs will be dense and tough.
For the Brown Gravy
- Butter & Flour - Butter and flour cooked together form a roux, the thickener for the gravy.
- Beef Stock - Stock is added to the roux to thicken into a gravy.
Step 1 - Caramelize the onion. In a large pan over medium low heat, add olive oil and lightly saute the onion until golden brown, bringing out its natural sugars and flavors, about 20 minutes.
Step 2 - While the onion caramelizes, add all ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl, including the onions when they are done. Mix very well to combine, clean hands are the best mixing tool!
Step 3 - Portion the meatballs into ping pong to golf ball size meatballs using a portion scoop or an ice cream scoop to get them all the same size. Roll them in your hands and place on a sheet pan. You will get about 30 to 36 meatballs, depending on the size. At this point you can freeze any meatballs you don't plan to use, or cover and refrigerate a day in advance.
Step 4 - Preheat the oven to 400°. Over medium high heat, reheat the pan from the onions, and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Brown the meatballs on one side, then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side). A metal or wooden spatula works best to flip them. Don't try to move them around in the pan while they are searing, let them sit 2 minutes to get a nice brown crust before flipping. Cook about 8 to 10 at a time in batches so you do not crowd the pan. When done browning the outside, return them to the sheet pan (don’t worry that it had the raw meatballs on them, you will be baking the whole thing).
Step 5 - Bake the browned meatballs in the oven for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size to finish cooking them through. Cut one open to make sure it's done.
Step 6 - Make the gravy. While the meatballs bake, reheat the pan you seared them in over medium low heat. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter, and make a roux by mixing in the flour. Let it cook for about a minute while whisking, scraping up the browned bits from searing the meatballs. Slowly whisk in beef stock, it will thicken with the roux into a gravy as it heats. Keep whisking it occasionally.
Step 7 - When baked, add the meatballs to the gravy and simmer on low until ready to serve. Roll meatballs and gravy in lefse.
- Make Ahead & Storage Instructions - There are a handful of options for making these homemade meatballs in gravy ahead of time. First, consider doubling the recipe, extra meatballs to freeze can be used in different sauces for Meatball Subs, Spaghetti, or Sweet & Sticky Appetizer Meatballs. You can freeze meatballs when they are raw, or store the raw meatballs in the fridge a day or two ahead. Second, you can sear and bake the meatballs, and then freeze them or store them in the fridge a day or two in advance. Leftover meatballs in their sauce can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen in the sauce. Just thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat.
- Serve Meatballs and Lefse with mashed potatoes and a simple roasted or blanched vegetable like broccoli or green beans.
Recipe Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, and you should! Homemade meatballs are a bit of work, but so much better than the frozen store-bought kind. I always double the recipe and freeze extras raw or cooked to use in any meatball recipe with any type of sauce. They are a great meal prep recipe for easy weeknight dinners, and are a great freezer meal for new moms! Thaw them overnight in the fridge and use them in any way!
Yes! Meatballs can be frozen raw or cooked! If freezing them cooked, all you need to do is thaw them overnight in the fridge and warm them through in your choice of sauce.
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Norwegian Meatballs with Lefse
For the Meatballs
- 1 small onion small dice (olive oil, salt, pepper)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup breadcrumbs (panko or a finely chopped and crumbled frozen burger bun work great!)
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup milk
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 grinds fresh black pepper
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
For the Gravy
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 6 Tablespoons 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 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix all other meatball ingredients in a large bowl, including onions when they are done. Form into meatballs and set on a sheet pan. They should be about ping pong to golf ball size, use a small portion scoop or ice cream scoop to make them equal in size. About 30 to 36 meatballs depending on the size. (At this point you can freeze or refrigerate meatballs, some or all, for later use, or try doubling the meatball recipe to really stock the freezer!)
- Preheat oven to 400°. Over medium high heat, reheat the pan from the onions or use a clean large pan, add 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Brown the meatballs on one side, then flip and do the other side (about 2 minutes per side). Cook about 8 to 12 at a time in batches so you do not crowd the pan. When done browning the outside, 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 the oven at 400° for about 10-20 minutes to finish cooking the meatballs through, cut one open to check.
- Meanwhile over medium low heat, melt 3T 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, scraping up the browned bits from searing the meatballs.
- Slowly whisk in beef stock, use enough stock to for a gravy-like consistency, you may not need the full quart. As the stock and roux mixture heat it will start to thicken into a gravy, whisk it occasionally.
- When the meatballs are baked, add them to the gravy and simmer on low until ready to serve. Serve meatballs and gravy rolled in lefse.
- Double the recipe to meal prep meatballs for the freezer. Meatballs can be frozen raw, cooked, or cooked and in the sauce. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before cooking or reheating.
- Browning the meatballs in the pan just adds flavor, it does not cook the meatballs all the way through. Finish them in the oven. To save time, you can skip the sear and just bake them directly in the oven, about 20 minutes but cut one open to be sure they are cooked through before adding them to your sauce.
- These basic homemade meatballs are versatile and can be used in different sauces!