I can’t make these meatballs without thinking about beautiful Italy. When I was a student, I took part in an exchange programme which took me there for a school year, and me being me, one of the things I did while I was there was to take a cookery course. The course was run by an Italian lady who was, naturally, the most amazing cook.
Once we’d graduated from making delicious and simple pastas (which I must write up recipes for at some point!), we moved onto meatballs. I do have the original meatball recipe from the course somewhere, however like much of the food I learned to cook there, I found the meatball-making concept easy to remember once I’d seen it and tried it for myself. The focus was really on simply combining and cooking a few good quality ingredients with love and care. I have no idea if this recipe is exactly the same as the original, but if not it’s pretty close and works every time.
The biggest takeaway for me was the lack of a need to make a special tomato sauce – the idea being that if you put a lot of flavour into your meatballs in the form of parmesan, meat with a decent fat content, garlic and herbs, all of these flavours will cook into a simple can of chopped tomatoes to give a rich and tasty sauce with minimal effort. I do add a little wine and seasoning but I’m sure this is my own doing!
The recipe calls for a mixture of beef and pork mince – you can use just beef mince or could even use sausages in place of the pork mince, you just need to adjust your seasoning accordingly.
The quantities given in this recipe feed 4 hungry adults comfortably, and so if you’re cooking for children this will go much further. I don’t quite get two whole dinner’s worth out of a batch, however depending on how hungry my children are, there’s often leftovers to have for lunch the next day or stash in the freezer for a later date.
Classic Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Serves 4 – 6
For the meatballs:
- 250g beef mince
- 250g pork mince
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp grated parmesan
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Small handful fresh basil and parsley (or 1 tsp each dried)
- Salt and Pepper
- A glug of olive oil
For the sauce:
- 2x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- A few springs of basil and parsley (or a sprinkling of each dried)
- 100 ml red wine (optional)
- Salt and Pepper
- Place all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl (except the oil) and mix together until everything has been incorporated fully. I find this easiest done by hand but you can also use a food processor or a fork
- Separate the meat mixture into 4, and then separate each of these pieces into 8 to give you 32 meatballs. You can adjust the size depending on preference. Mini meatballs are great for babies and toddlers.
- Roll each piece into a ball, reserving on a plate until ready to cook. Little hands love helping with this bit!
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil on a medium-high heat, then add the meatballs to the pan
- Gently fry the meatballs until browned on all sides
- Add the chopped tomatoes, wine (if using) and herbs to the pan and stir gently to coat the meatballs.
- Cover and cook for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes until the sauce is has thickened
- Finish with a pinch of salt and pepper, and serve over pasta, rice or alongside creamy mash, with an extra dusting of parmesan