The Difference Between Swedish Meatballs And Italian

When it comes to meatballs, everyone seems to have their favorite recipe or way to eat them. Maybe you prefer your meatballs sitting atop a heap of spaghetti that's been tossed with tomato sauce. Or perhaps you like them served up on a toasted hoagie roll with melted cheese or dished up on their own with a bit of flavorful sauce as an appetizer at parties or potlucks. While those are all delicious ways to enjoy them, there are other ways to make meatballs outside of the traditional Italian style.

Another popular type of meatball is Swedish meatballs. Although they can be a crowd favorite, the Swedish variety may not immediately come to mind when you think of meatballs. But this savory and somewhat rich dish is served with a creamy, gravy-like sauce, seasoned with a unique spice, and is typically enjoyed as a meal rather than an appetizer or on a sandwich. There are more differences between these two styles of meatballs beyond their seasonings and sauces, including the meat they're made with and how each style is served.

Italian meatballs vary in blends of meat and are made with a tomato-based sauce

Typically made with ground beef, veal, ground pork, or sometimes, a blend of all three types of meat, Italian meatballs are usually seasoned with ground parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic, and breadcrumbs and are bound together with a whisked egg. Once they're seasoned, Italian meatballs can be shaped into several sizes, from golf ball sized, perfect for appetizers or sandwiches, to baseball-sized meatballs that can be served with spaghetti.

Italian meatballs are usually cooked in the oven or slowly browned on all sides in a skillet. And since most Italian meatballs are served with a red sauce, many cooks prefer to let them simmer in tomato sauce for anywhere from 30 minutes up to a couple of hours before serving, allowing the meat to infuse the sauce with loads of flavor. No matter how you decide to serve them, Italian meatballs are usually finished with a sprinkling of cheese, including parmesan, mozzarella, or provolone.

Swedish meatballs are more aromatic and made with a hearty roux

You don't always have to opt for the Italian variety when you're in the mood for meatballs. Maybe you've only seen or tasted Swedish meatballs when you've stopped at IKEA, but Swedish meatballs have a place outside the home furnishing company's retail stores. These meatballs tend to be a bit smaller in size and are more savory than their Italian counterpart. They are seasoned with aromatic allspice that balances out the rich flavor of the white, gravy-like sauce they're served in.

While Italian meatballs can be made from a blend of meats, Swedish meatballs are usually made with ground pork or an equal amount of blended pork and beef and are mixed together with breadcrumbs and bound with eggs. Once they're shaped into the desired diameter, they're browned in a skillet. 

After they've cooked, the pan drippings become the base for the creamy sauce, which is made by creating a roux with flour, stock, milk, or cream that gets simmered until it's thick and thick velvety. These delicious meatballs and creamy sauce are typically served over cooked egg noodles or a bed of mashed potatoes. No matter what type of meatballs you're in the mood for, each style can be comforting, hearty, and tasty.