Everyone loves meatballs don’t they, veggies aside obviously? I really should make these more often as they’re such a savoured treat in our house and always put a smile on the dinner table faces. A perfect weekend family dinner. We had these last Saturday and they went down a storm with all of us, even Jacques managed to munch his way through THREE WHOLE meatballs (and he’s only 21 months old!). Totally delish.
The recipe I’ve always used for Meatballs is actually based on Nigella’s (from her Nigella Bites book) and to be honest you can’t really fault it! Wonderful half pork, half beef ever so slightly cheesy meatballs. All cooked and served in a lovely tomato sauce on a bed of pasta. Nigella makes her sauce with tomato passata, but as I rarely have it in I tend to make my own from a can of chopped tomatoes and a little tomato puree. I also like to add the merest touch of chilli to my tomato sauce, but feel free to omit if you don’t like the heat.
She also makes her own tagliatelle in the recipe. In my pre-children days I often used to make my own pasta, but I simply don’t have the same luxury of time these days and tend to use dried as a perfectly good substitute. But if you do have a little more time than me GO FOR IT, homemade pasta is unbeatable, and actually pretty simple when you’ve made it a few times.
I haven’t specified any weight for the dried pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine all work particularly well) as I find pasta is such a variant and my family have particularly enormous appetites for it!. Just cook the same amount you would normally for yourselves for a bolognese or similar.
Makes about 14 small meatballs, and enough for a family of Four:
200g of good quality pork mince
200g of good quality beef mince
2 tbsps finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tsp of dried oregano
2 heaped tbsps of breadcrumbs
salt & pepper
For the Tomato Sauce:
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp of dried oregano
the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
a pinch of sugar
1 desert spoon of tomato puree
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
200ml of water
100ml full fat milk
salt & pepper
and Pasta of your choice, fresh or dried spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine
Start with making your meatballs. Simply add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix very thoroughly, the best way to do this is by hand squidging the mix through your hands and fingers (and if feels soooo lush!). Once well combined shape into smallish balls, by taking a little of the mixture and rolling it around in your hands a little. They should each be a smidgen bigger than a walnut. Aim for about 14 balls. Once made place on a layer of cling film on top of a plate or tray. Cover with another layer of cling film and place in the fridge until ready to cook.
Now for the sauce. In a large wide saucepan or casserole dish (that you have a lid for) add a generous glug of olive oil and heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Now add the chilli (if using) and oregano and cook for a moment or two more. Then add a pinch of sugar, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Take off the heat and whiz the sauce up, preferably with a stick blender straight into the saucepan. You could obviously use a food processor too but that creates too much washing up for me!. Taste the sauce and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to suit. Now add the milk and stir well.
Place the sauce back on the heat and bring to a simmer again. Now it’s time to add the meatballs. Carefully drop them individually into the sauce. Don’t stir them at all at this point, you must wait until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown as you don’t want them to break up.
Cook for 20 minutes with the lid partially covering the pan. Towards the end of this time you can stir the meatballs a little to turn them over.
Whilst they’re cooking cook your pasta to packet instructions.
Have a final taste check of the sauce and serve the meatballs and sauce immediately on a bed of pasta with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.