Meatballs in Creamy Caper Sauce

It’s commonplace to pair meatballs and a red sauce, but this recipe is a lovely alternative. The only prerequisite is that you must love capers!

This recipe comes from one that most likely I copied from a cookbook borrowed from the local library. It’s from the days I had higher priorities than spending lots of money on cookbooks, so I simply borrowed the books, read them, and marked the recipes I wanted to keep. Then my husband would use the copier at work; he was always very nice about this. But, of course, he always got fed well so it was a win-win for him!

I’d then cut out the recipes and glue them on cards. But unfortunately, I cannot share with you the source of this recipe because I never thought to add those details to the recipe cards. It’s really sad that I didn’t, and I apologize to you as well.

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I’ve made this recipe the way it is on the card, and it’s divine. I’m pretty sure I made it for other people, because my husband won’t eat capers.

The recipe involves meatballs, that you make any way you want, but they must be made on the small side, and then they’re boiled/steam cooked in a seasoned broth. From the broth you make the sauce, which involves sour cream and capers.

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On this post, I’m not really focusing on the meatballs, because everyone has her/his own favorite recipes for meatballs, but more on the way they’re cooked, as well as the sauce. The dish is not terribly photogenic, but really tasty.

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Meatballs  in  a  Creamy  Caper  Sauce

Meatballs:
1/2 ground pork, 1/2 ground turkey, white meat only, 12 ounces each
1/2 small onion, diced
2 eggs, beaten
Some amount of breadcrumbs, I used dried, about 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Coarsely ground black pepper
Parsley, which I forgot to put in the meatballs*

In an extra large bowl, place the meats, the onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Then add the seasonings.

Use your hands and mix everything together well, without over mixing. You don’t want the meatballs to turn out dense.

Using a scoop, if you feel you need one, form the meat mixture into small balls, about 1″ in diameter.

Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of chicken or beef broth into a large, flat skillet. I used chicken broth powder to season the water.

The original recipe called for lemon juice, a strip of lemon peel, a bay leaf, and some pickling spices to be added to the broth. I decided to make my broth a little more on the herbaceous side. I also omitted the lemon altogether.

I picked some fresh oregano, parsley, and rosemary and placed them in the broth, along with a few bay leaves. Then I simmered the broth for about 15 minutes. You could always do this step first, before you make the meatballs.

When the broth is ready, remove the herbs. Adjust the amount of liquid, if necessary; there should be about 1/4″ minimum on the bottom of the skillet. Make sure the broth is simmering, then add a batch of meatballs.

Cover the skillet and let the meatballs cook through. This will hardly take 5 minutes or so; you could always check one to see if it’s just done in the middle. You don’t want to overcook them.

Remove the cooked meatballs with a slotted spoon, place them on a clean platter, and continue with the remaining batches. You’re left with some meat and onion bits in the seasoned broth, but that didn’t bother me. If it bothers you, pour the liquid through a sieve, and then back into the skillet. You should still have about 3/4 cup – 1 cup of liquid. This will dictate the amount of sauce you end up with, so adjust accordingly.

At this point, with the broth simmering, add a teaspoon of cornstarch and whisk well, then add 2 heaping tablespoons of sour cream or creme fraiche. Whisk well, then stir in about 1/4 cup of capers.

Add the amount of meatballs you want smothered with this sauce, and leave the rest for another purpose. Cook the meatballs gently, turning them around in the sauce. Give them a minute, and then serve.

I served these meatballs to myself with some steamed asparagus, and it was a very nice combination. The original recipes suggests egg noodles, which would work if you have a lot of sauce.

If desired, top the meatballs with a few more capers and some chopped parsley before serving.

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* I feel that parsley is really underappreciated and under used, especially in the U.S. I think we still think of it as only a garnish on a plate. But in meatballs, for example, it not only adds a fresh flavor and a pretty color, but it adds moisture as well. But omit it if you don’t love it.

note: In the original recipe, you are also supposed to add chopped capers to the meatballs, which is a very good addition. Since my husband was going to be eating a majority of these meatballs, I omitted them.
Also, think about the different ways that you can season the broth, using peppercorns, allspice, star anise, orange peel, garlic, and much more. It’s a brilliant way to add flavors to the basic broth base of the sauce.
Also, I didn’t add any salt to either the meatballs or the sauce; I feel that the capers lend enough saltiness, but this is your choice.

By Published On: June 11th, 201437 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

37 Comments

  1. sallybr June 11, 2014 at 8:16 AM - Reply

    Mimi, this recipe comes at the right time for me… Long story to be kept short, but I want to make some veal meatballs from a special cookbook, and was wondering about a different sauce to go with them. We love capers, so this might just be it!

    I am not sure when I’ll get to make them, but maybe even as soon as this weekend…

    • chef mimi June 11, 2014 at 8:35 AM - Reply

      It’s fun and easy, with great results. I love seasoning the broth before finishing the sauce.

  2. Darya June 11, 2014 at 8:30 AM - Reply

    Wow, I love the sound of this (I love capers). And it is definitely a nice change from tomato sauce meatballs!

  3. thesinglegourmetandtraveller June 11, 2014 at 8:59 AM - Reply

    Lovely alternative to the usual tomato sauce. It’s quite like the sauce served with Swedish meatballs.

    • chef mimi June 11, 2014 at 9:22 AM - Reply

      In my memory, that’s like a sour cream “gravy” and there are no capers, but I could be completely wrong!!! It’s been a long time since I’ve made them. But I do remember that they were good!

  4. StefanGourmet June 11, 2014 at 2:36 PM - Reply

    Very interesting recipe. Unfortunately, I’m not very fond of capers.

    • chef mimi June 11, 2014 at 3:14 PM - Reply

      Oh really? It’s funny to me what people dislike. I think celeriac is the only thing I’m not fond of.

      • StefanGourmet June 11, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        I can eat capers but am not very fond of them, especially in large quantities. Similar to how I feel about cilantro.
        Have you ever had roasted celeriac?

      • chef mimi June 11, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        No. My mother used to grate it and turn it into salads. I despised the smell!

      • StefanGourmet June 14, 2014 at 8:06 AM

        You might actually like it oven roasted or mashed.

      • chef mimi June 14, 2014 at 8:12 AM

        Perhaps, but since I can’t buy it where I live, I don’t have to find out!!! The smell gets to me…

      • StefanGourmet June 14, 2014 at 8:47 AM

        Celeriac is so common here it’s hard to imagine not being able to buy it. I guess as hard to imagine for you how hard it is to find chiles here ;-)

      • chef mimi June 14, 2014 at 8:55 AM

        Exactly!

  5. Conor Bofin June 11, 2014 at 3:16 PM - Reply

    Really nice looking indeed Mimi. I love the unusual sauce.

  6. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward June 11, 2014 at 3:37 PM - Reply

    I agree – this is a nice change from the classic red sauce. The fact that this sauce could use cultured creme fraiche or even full-fat Greek yogurt is nice, since I don’t cook with a lot of milk (I’m a lactard!). Capers are so perfect for summer… I had some last night on pesto pasta with roasted veggies! Yummy, Mimi.

  7. apuginthekitchen June 11, 2014 at 5:03 PM - Reply

    Love it, sounds really wonderful. I love creamy sauces and of course I love meatballs. Those are gorgeous big capers!!

  8. milkandbun June 12, 2014 at 3:53 AM - Reply

    I do like capers and creamy sauces! Love the idea, and the dish looks really tasty!

  9. Amanda June 12, 2014 at 11:16 AM - Reply

    Mimi, I just started borrowing cookbooks from the library. Such a great idea :) I love the idea of adding capers here. What a great idea to pickle the herbs. Amazing. I bet these taste unbelievable.

    • chef mimi June 12, 2014 at 2:50 PM - Reply

      Thanks! It’s really a very good dish!!!

  10. Mama's Gotta Bake June 12, 2014 at 11:39 AM - Reply

    Hi Chef Mimi, I love the dash of saltiness that capers bring to a dish, especially paired with the savory flavor of the meatballs. I bet they tasted great!

    • chef mimi June 12, 2014 at 2:50 PM - Reply

      The meatballs and sauce are definitely very good together!

  11. Our Growing Paynes June 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM - Reply

    I love capers and this sauce would go well with a variety of things!

  12. Mary Frances June 12, 2014 at 3:49 PM - Reply

    Interesting! I’ve never seen anything that used capers as the major flavor component- usually they’re more of a garnish.

    • chef mimi June 12, 2014 at 8:34 PM - Reply

      In this case, they’re still more like a garnish – it’s just that they are strong flavored!

  13. Kristi Kaiser June 12, 2014 at 10:16 PM - Reply

    Mimi, these looks absolutely AMAZING! I love meatballs and even more, I love the strong taste of capers. They are seriously one of my favorite things! Pinned! Because I’m definitely making this recipe later!!! Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen

    • chef mimi June 13, 2014 at 11:42 AM - Reply

      You’ll have to tell me what you think!

  14. Peter - The Roaming GastroGnome June 14, 2014 at 9:59 AM - Reply

    Love capers! There’s a German deli near our neighborhood that has meatballs in a similar sauce but with dill, which are also tasty and great for picnics.

  15. Karen June 15, 2014 at 10:19 AM - Reply

    This is a wonderful alternative to meatballs in a red sauce.

    • chef mimi June 15, 2014 at 11:40 AM - Reply

      And it’s very light, too, in spite of the sour cream!

  16. My French Heaven June 17, 2014 at 1:09 AM - Reply

    Very inspiring post that comes at the right time for me. I was planning on making veal meatballs tomorrow for lunch… These look great and the asparagus with the capers was probably one of the best combination you could have chosen. Good job darling!

    • chef mimi June 17, 2014 at 7:26 AM - Reply

      Thank you Stephane! I love that you can season the broth however you wish. I chose herbs instead of an overly lemon flavor. It’s also lighter than you’d think!

  17. DellaCucinaPovera June 21, 2014 at 1:36 AM - Reply

    ahhh those herbs – that broth must have been super lovely and fragrant!

    • chef mimi June 21, 2014 at 9:18 AM - Reply

      It worked really well. And to me it was better than a real lemony broth!

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