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Meatballs with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Meatballs are a universal comfort food, up there with burgers. One can do tons of variations on the theme, past student Jez Felwick’s Food Truck led to a best-selling cookbook and eventually a restaurant –

Serves 6


2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

900g (2lbs) freshly minced beef (80% lean) or 700g (1 1/2lbs) beef/225g (8oz) pork

50g (2oz) soft breadcrumbs

50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) milk

2-4 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 5 American tablespoons) chopped fresh herbs, such as marjoram, or a mixture of parsley, chives and thyme leaves

1 organic egg, beaten

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

225g (8oz) onion, peeled and sliced

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

900g (2lbs) ripe, peeled and chopped tomatoes  or 2 x 400g (14ozs) tins chopped tomatoes

good pinch of crushed chilli flakes (optional)

salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

To serve

3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

150g (5ozs) Mozzarella and Parmesan, grated

450g (1lb) spaghetti

Rocket leaves (optional)


parsley leaves

First make the meatballs, heat the olive oil in a heavy, stainless-steel saucepan over a gentle heat and add the chopped onions and garlic.  Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 8-10 minutes until soft and slightly golden. Allow to cool.

Soak all the bread crumbs in milk.

Put the freshly minced beef into a bowl and breadcrumbs in a bowl.  add the cold sweated onion and garlic, add the herbs (and chilli flakes if using) and the beaten egg.  Season the mixture to taste.  Fry a tiny bit to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Divide the mixture into about 24 round meatballs. Cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce.  Heat the oil in a casserole or a stainless-steel saucepan.  Add the sliced onion and crushed garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat over a gentle heat until soft.  Add the peeled and chopped tomatoes and chilli flakes, mix and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar (tinned tomatoes take more sweetening).  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, uncover and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes or until thick and unctuous.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Cook the meatballs for 8-10 minutes turning from time to time.  When they are cooked, transfer to an ovenproof serving dish. Add to the hot tomato sauce, turn gently to cover.  Pop into a preheated oven at 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Sprinkle the grated cheese on top or place under a preheated grill to let the cheese melt.  Serve immediately with cooked spaghetti, crusty bread and or just a green salad.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water.  Drain and turn into a hot serving dish.  Spoon the meatballs and tomato sauce over the top, sprinkle with grated Mozzarella and Parmesan.  Sprinkle with lots of flat parsley leaves.

Meatball Dogs

Split hot dogs rolls lengthwise down the centre.  Insert 3 small meat balls smothered with tomato sauce into each.  Top with a bit of rocket or flat parsley.  Serve hot.

Meatball Sliders

Split 3 sliders in half, chargrill, drizzle with olive oil.  Top with a meat ball and secure the lid with a bamboo cocktail stick.  Eat as soon as possible and serve 3 per person as a starter.

Grow Cook Nourish

This is a recipe by
Darina Allen
View all my recipes

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