I know some people are a bit squeamish at the thought of making their own meatballs. No need to squeam – there’s an easy cheat using sausages as a short cut. And of course it’s much quicker than starting from scratch.
The meatball bit is simple – buy the best sausages you can find, run a sharp knife done the side of each one and peel off the skin then chop them into four fairly even chunks. They’re your meatballs (cheatballs, really).
Fry these in a little oil until they brown and remove to a dish. In the same pan, fry a diced onion and maybe some mushrooms, peppers or courgettes, whatever’s in the fridge.
Once these have softened add a clove of bashed up garlic and stir through a good squirt of tomato puree. Add half a mug of stock and/or a glass of wine and let this simmer on a high heat for five minutes or so. Then add a tin of tomatoes.
Put the oven on to 200 degC to warm up ready and put a pan of pasta shapes on to cook.
Put the meatballs back into the the sauce and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until it’s starting to thicken nicely. Add a good pinch of herbes de Provence, grinding it into a powder in the palm of your hand to avoid any twigs later.
Now mix the pasta into the sauce and cover with a shedload of grated cheese – strong cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella. Or all three if you have elastic trousers.
Bake this in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown and go stringy.
It’s rich and satisfying, doesn’t take too long to cook and avoids the need for messy bits of meat getting everywhere.
I used some meaty chipolatas for the one I photographed so I just left the skins on and cut them in two – even easier!