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Touring Wisconsin Food

Grandma’s Swedish Meatballs: Wisconsin Winter Comfort Food And Party Food

I always like those little meatballs in gravy on buffet tables. I think they’re called Swedish meatballs, but I’ve seen them in Chinese restaurants so perhaps they’re a global, mystery meat. There must be lots of different recipes for them because they don’t all taste the same. Some buffet meatballs are definitely superior to others. Maybe it’s the gravy I like so much, -it’s warm, slightly thick, and tasty. Of course it’s fattening, – it’s comfort food. But that’s okay, it’s January in Wisconsin. We need comfort food, and little round meatballs in brown gravy fit the bill.

And since February is just around the corner, I decided I’d try to make my own buffet-table meatballs for the super-bowl party I might have. So I turned to my cookbook, Grandma’s Home Kitchen: Where lessons and life were mixed with love, because the great-grandma of that cookbook came from Sweden. And her grand-daughter, Wanda Peterson Mango who wrote the cookbook, is mostly Swedish too. And their whole family is mostly Swedish, except for Wanda’s maternal grandmother who was German. But together all these daughters, mothers and grandmothers ran Grandma’s Swedish Bakery in Door County, WI while nearly 20 of Wanda’s nieces and nephews ran underfoot. So if anybody would know how to make Swedish meatballs, I was sure it would be the Peterson family. Keep reading for Grandma’s recipe and more of the story.

Now I’m not sure that Wanda gave the true skinny on her grandma’s meatballs. In fact I think she mickied with Grandma’s recipe exactly so she and her family could be skinny. Wanda wrote, “Meatballs were always the favorite at our house. It was also one of the cooking projects that got many people involved – rolling them in balls and frying them, making sure they were turned to brown evenly. This recipe has the same flavor but is baked to make it much easier to do and lower in fat.” Uh-huh, she admits to tinkering. Grandma’s altered recipe is now 21st-century PC, – it’s low-fat. Cardiologists would smile on Wanda’s Swedish meatballs. But would Grandma have baked her meatballs? I doubt it; I bet she fried them in bacon grease. Now those would be tasty! 

So what did I do? Did I play to fashion and bake these meatballs or did I fry them up in butter as my own mother taught me to do with meatballs? Since I’d never made Grandma’s, I mean Wanda’s, Swedish meatballs before, I figured I should follow the recipe as it’s written. Well fat chance of that! I forgot to add the breadcrumbs to the meat. My meatballs were not only low-fat, they were low-carb too! I wanted winter comfort food and I got high-protein, low-fat, healthy food. Okay, but did it taste good? It did have gravy on it right? 

Grandmas Home Kitchen


Well, if you serve the meatballs as a finger-food appetizer with little toothpicks stuck in them, there is no gravy. They look cute, but I wasn’t after cute. My daughter liked them. She said they’re especially good with a cranberry chaser, by which she means to say you should pop sweetened dried cranberries into your mouth after the meatball. She says the flavor combo is “Awesome!” Lauren also really likes my meatloaf with the cranberry topping baked on top so I wasn’t surprised by her hearty thumbs-up.

I liked them with the gravy. I thought they were a little too dry without it. Lauren said I thought that because I’d over-cooked them. Sometimes she isn’t cute. But with gravy they had the comfort-food consistency and flavor that a Wisconsin winter food requires.

So here’s Wanda’s version of her grandma’s recipe. Baked or fried, you decide. But a super-selling point for these Swedish meatballs is that they can be made ahead of time. Wanda wrote that you can even freeze them until you’re ready to use them. So if you’re getting ready for a giant super-bowl party, this Swedish meatball recipe is just what you’re looking for.

Swedish Meatballs

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons parsley or celery flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water

“Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put ground beef into a medium mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Mix well with your hands.

Place onion, parsley or celery, Worcestershire sauce, eggs, and milk in a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Add to ground beef mixture and mix until smooth with your hands. Add bread crumbs and continue to mix with your hands until well blended.

Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet so meatballs barely touch. Bake for 20 minutes. Take meatballs off pans while warm and put them into a serving dish.

Place beef broth in a small saucepan over medium heat. In a separate bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Add to beef broth. Bring to a boil while stirring. When gravy is thickened, pour over meatballs.

Meatballs may be made smaller and served without gravy. Serve on a tray with toothpicks for a finger food item.”


  1. Hey,
    I must say these meat balls look LOVELY!! I tried to make some meat balls a few weeks ago, and they wasnt very nice! I am going to try this and see how i get on!

  2. Your writing style is very unique! And you write an article of the very thorough! Involved in all aspects of your own ideas! I hope you continue to refuel! Can you tell me about your thoughts?

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