Meatballs are cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce.
There are many types of meatballs using different types of meats and spices. The term is sometimes extended to meatless versions based on vegetables or fish. The Chinese recipe of "Four Joy Meatballs" (四喜丸子—Si Xi Wanzi) is derived from Lu Cuisine, also called Shandong cuisine. It originated from the native cooking styles of East China's Shandong province. Its history can date back to Qin Dynasty (221 BC to 207 BC).
Early recipes included in some of the earliest known Arabic cookbooks, generally concern seasoned lamb rolled into orange-sized balls, and glazed with egg yolk and sometimes saffron. This method was taken to the West and is referred to as gilding, or endoring. Many regional variations exist, notable among them the unusually large Azerbaijan (Iran) Tabriz kuftesi, having an average diameter of 20 cm, (8 in).
The ancient Roman cookbook Apicius included many meatball-type recipes. Albanian fried meatballs (qofte të fërguara) include feta cheese. Armenian stewed meatballs / meatball and vegetable stew (kufte rize) is a classic dish often poured over rice for consumption. In Austria, fried meatballs are called Fleischlaibchen or Fleischlaberl. In Bosnian, meatballs are called ćufte and are typically made from ground beef and served with mashed potatoes. In Belgium, meatballs are called ballekes or bouletten in Flanders, and are usually made of a mixture of beef and pork with bread crumbs and sliced onions. Many other variations exist, including different kinds of meat and chopped vegetables. In Bulgaria, meatballs are called kyufte and are typically made from ground beef or pork, or a mix of the two. They can be shallow fried or grilled and often contain diced onions and soaked bread. They are a very popular dish. In Croatia, meatballs are called polpete in the Dalmatian region or ćufte in the continental part. They are typically made with ground beef or a mixture of pork and beef and served with mashed potatoes or rice, often with tomato based sauce. Danish meatballs are known as frikadeller and are typically fried, and they are usually made out of ground pork, veal, onions, eggs, salt and pepper; these are formed into balls and flattened somewhat, so they are pan ready. In Estonia, meatballs are called lihapallid and are similar to those of Finnish or Swedish cuisine. In Finnish cuisine, meatballs (lihapullat) are made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef and pork, or even with ground reindeer meat, mixed with bread crumbs soaked in milk and finely chopped onions. They are seasoned with white pepper and salt. Meatballs are traditionally served with gravy, boiled potatoes (or mashed potatoes), lingonberry jam, and sometimes pickled cucumber. In Alsace, France, meatballs are known as Fleischkiechele. They are made of beef, pork, onions, bacon, eggs and bread. They are served plain or with cream sauce. In Germany, meatballs are mostly known as Frikadelle, Fleischküchle, Fleischpflanzerl, Bulette or Klopse. A very famous variant of meatballs are Königsberger Klopse, which contain anchovy or salted herring, and are eaten with caper sauce. In Greece, fried meatballs are called keftédes (κεφτέδες) and usually include within the mix of bread, onions, parsley and mint leaf. Stewed meatballs are called yuvarlákia (γιουβαρλάκια: from the Turkish word yuvarlak, which means "round") and usually include small quantities of rice. In Hungary, as well as territories from neighbouring countries where Hungarian is spoken, a meatball is called fasírt [ˈfɒʃiːrt] or fasírozott [ˈfɒʃiːrozotː] probably coming from Austrian German faschierte Laibchen. Also the májgombóc [ˈmaːjɡomboːts] (liver dumpling) is popular in soups. In Italy, meatballs (named polpette [polˈpette], sing. polpetta) are generally eaten as a main course or in a soup. The main ingredients of an Italian meatball are: beef and/or pork and sometimes poultry, salt, black pepper, chopped garlic, olive oil, Romano cheese, eggs, bread crumbs and parsley, mixed and rolled by hand to a golf ball size. In the Abruzzo region of Italy, especially in the Province of Teramo, the meatballs are typically the size of marbles, and are called polpettine [polpetˈtiːne]. In the Netherlands, meatballs are called gehaktbal, and are often served with boiled potatoes and vegetables. They are usually made out of mixed beef and pork minced meat, eggs, onion and bread crumbs. They are associated with Wednesday, as evidenced by the saying woensdag, gehaktdag (Wednesday, meatball day) In Norway, meatballs are called kjøttboller (lit. "meatbuns"). The influence from Swedish meatballs is such that they are even often referred to as "köttbullar" (which is the Swedish-language term, See the section for Sweden), though usually jokingly or because the meatballs were actually purchased in Sweden, which is common in areas close to the Swedish border. When Charles XII of Sweden was in exile in Istanbul in the early 18th century, he took the recipe back to Sweden. Meatballs come in a few different types, all typically small, and the international influence is great, perhaps the greatest from Sweden and Spain. They are usually eaten with potatoes or pasta, or both. Some common additions are various vegetables, ketchup, various spices, etc. "Kjøttkaker" (lit. "meatcakes") is a much larger and different related dish, and is perhaps more traditional and also common, which is much larger in size and made of different things in a different way (and the two should not be confused). The latter is often served with potatoes and peas (either could be mashed). Kjøttboller is typically fried, a process which takes only very few minutes because of their size, whereas kjøttkaker are typically part of a mix which includes a brown sauce and often potatoes. In Poland, they are called pulpety (from the Italian name) or klopsy (singular pulpet; klops), and pulpeciki ("little pulpety"), and are usually served cooked with a variety of sauces (such as tomato or a kind of gravy thickened with flour, as well as forest mushroom sauce) with potatoes, rice or all sorts of kasza. Pulpety or klopsy are usually made from seasoned ground meat with onion and mixed with eggs and either bread crumbs or wheat rolls soaked in milk or water. Fried pulpety are larger than typical cooked ones. They can be round or flat in shape. The latter, in many countries, would be considered a cross between a meatball and a hamburger. The fried variety is called mielony (short for kotlet mielony, literally "minced cutlet"), and its mass-produced version (as well as the one served in bars, etc.) is the subject of many jokes and urban legends about what is used to produce it. In Portugal, meatballs are called almôndegas [aɫˈmõdɨɣɐʃ]. These are usually served with tomato sauce and pasta. In Romania and Moldova, meatballs are called chiftele or pârjoale and are usually deep fried and made with pork or poultry, moistened mashed potatoes and spices. Chiftele are flat and round and contain more meat. A variant mixing rice inside the meatball is used for sour soup, making ciorbă de perişoare. In Spain and Hispanic America, meatballs are called albóndigas, derived from the Arabic al-bunduq (meaning hazelnut, or, by extension, a small round object). Albóndigas are thought to have originated as a Berber or Arab dish imported to Spain during the period of Muslim rule. Spanish albóndigas can be served as an appetizer or main course, often in a tomato sauce. Mexican albóndigas are commonly served in a soup with a light broth and vegetables. In Sweden, köttbullar [ˈɕœtːbɵlar] are made with ground beef or a mix of ground beef, pork and sometimes veal, sometimes including bread crumbs soaked in milk, finely chopped (fried) onions, some broth and often including cream. They are seasoned with white pepper or allspice and salt. Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with gravy, boiled potatoes, lingonberry jam, and sometimes fresh pickled cucumber. Traditionally, they are small, around 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. In Turkey, meatballs are called köfte and are extremely popular, there are at many different versions with a variety of shapes – not necessarily round. Meatballs in Turkey are usually made with ground lamb or a mix of ground beef and lamb. Some of the most popular ones are İnegöl köfte, İzmir köfte, Tire köfte, şiş köfte, kadınbudu köfte, sulu köfte and Akçaabat köftesi. In the United Kingdom, faggots are a type of spicy pork meatball. A faggot is traditionally made from pig's heart, liver and fatty belly meat or bacon minced together, with herbs added for flavoring, and sometimes bread crumbs.