Marvelous meatballs in tomato sauce

These quick and delicious meatballs are simple and cheap to make.

This takes about an hour to cook but the prep time’s about 15 mins. So you can get it sorted as you walk through the door and go and do something else for an hour while it does its thing in the oven. So they’re also good if you’re expecting guests too.

First make the meatballs. I tend to use lean mince to keep the fat content down (unlike burgers where you need a bit of fat to keep them moist). Put a pack of mince into a bowl. A normal 500g pack give serves 2 to 3 hungry people but would probably stretch to 4.

To the mince add salt and pepper and a teaspoon or two of ground cumin and coriander (seeds). The spice just provides some depth of flavour – you won’t taste the individual spices but there’s a nice background warmth to the meatballs.

Now get your hands in and give it a good mix, really squeezing the dry ingredients into the mince. If you want to taste it now, pull off a small bit of the mixture and quickly fry it – good idea to check there’s enough seasoning.

Form up the meatballs into whatever size you want, depending on how many you’re trying to serve. I think smaller’s better as they’re easier to eat with pasta so I make mine about an inch in diameter at the most.

Brown off the meatballs in batches so that they aren’t too crowded in the pan. If you’ve got a casserole you can use on the stove do it in that here or use a frying pan, either way, remove the meatballs to a separate plate as they brown.

Next fry a chopped onion, garlic and a diced red pepper (and/or mushrooms) in the fat and juices that have come out into the meatball pan until soft. Throw in a glug of red wine and let it bubble away for a few minutes. At this point, if you’re using a frying pan you need to transfer the mix into a casserole dish.

Return the meatballs to the dish, add a tin of tomatoes and chop them up a bit if they’re not ready-chopped. Add enough stock so that the meatballs are completely covered – for me that’s usually about a 1/4 of a pint but it’ll vary by size of dish. Put a lid on it.

This now goes in the oven (170 C) for about 40 minutes. After that time the sauce should be reduced by about a third. If it’s not thick enough, give it 10 minutes on the stove or turn up the oven and take off the lid.

If you’re feeling fruity, you can tear up a ball of mozzarella, scatter it over the top of the sauce and give it five minutes in the oven with the lid off to melt. It’s well worth it!

We usually eat this with spaghetti or linguine and the rest of the red wine that was opened for cooking.

And I must give credit to my friend Mark who first made this for us about six years ago – I’ve been pretty much making it monthly ever since.

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Categories: Beef lamb and pork, Leftovers, Pasta and rice, Speedy, Student

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