Meatballs with tomato sauce are a well-known classic. They are my go-to dish when I want to cook some meaty pasta meal.
Funny enough, I have pasta associated with mince more than any other meat!
The recipe is super easy and it will take you just over half an hour, and I promise the result will be fabulous!
This dish also suits critical conditions such as quarantine or self-isolation cooking - I've cooked them recently after our return to London and found majority of the ingredients in the pantry and the freezer.
What a great feeling it was when we had a proper dinner without having to go food shopping!
Our grocery shop was delivered this morning and until then I just cooked from ingredients that we had in stock.
Now, let's analyse the recipe a little bit.
For the meatballs, I'm using minced beef, but feel free to use minced pork or a mix of minced beef and pork. With pork, the meatballs will be juicier and of a lighter color.
If you don't have fresh herbs at home, that's fine too: use dried ones instead!
Meatballs are often served with spaghetti, but you can swap them for any type of pasta! I usually use what we currently have at home or simply what I fancy that day!
Finally, I've added some spice to the sauce by using chilli flakes. However, this is completely optional and depends on your own preference.
Meatballs in homemade tomato sauce
For the meatballs
- 500 g minced beef or pork, or mix of both, chilled
- 1 free-range egg
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 3 tablespoon breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- small bunch fresh parsley chopped
- salt, black pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 400 g dried pasta
For the tomato sauce
- 1 onion roughly chopped
- 2 – 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 x400g tin chopped tomatoes or 12 fresh ripened tomatoes
- small bunch fresh basil
- salt, black pepper
- 80 g grated Grana Padano or Parmesan for serving
- chilli flakes
- Prepare the meatballs. Add the minced meat into a large mixing bowl. Add the onion (the smaller the pieces the better for mixing). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, chopped parsley, oregano and breadcrumbs. Break the egg and add it to the mix.
- Mix the meat and spices with your hands and work the mixture until it all blends well together, forming a firm, dough-like texture.
- Using only your hands, create same-sized small balls from the meat mixture. This should be enough for about 20 to 24 meatballs, depending on their size. Set them on a plate and leave to rest. (If preparing in advance, this is a point when you want to cover them and store in the fridge until needed).
- Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
- Add the olive oil into a large frying pan and set on medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the meatballs, one by one, using a spoon. Fry them for about 10-12 minutes (depending on their size), turning every now and then, so they are brown from each side.
- Once the meatballs are browned, carefully take them off the pan and set aside. Keep the oil and remaining juices in the pan, both will be used for the sauce.
- Using the same frying pan: add the roughly chopped onion and garlic (and chilli flakes if using). Lower the heat to medium, toss and fry for about 4 minutes or until the onion is soft and glossy.
- Turn up the heat and add the tinned tomatoes. Stir thoroughly and bring to boil. When the sauce starts to bubble, cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Stir the sauce, and add the cooked meatballs. Stir slightly from the bottom of the pan and add a dash of water if the sauce looks too reduced. Turn up the heat, cover and leave to simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Serve 4-5 meatballs per portion with sauce over the pasta, add fresh basil leaves and grated cheese.