What carnivore doesn’t love a good meatball? There is something so comforting about a big plate of pasta coated in a rich and spicy tomato sauce studded with succulent meaty morsels.
I’ve made many different types over the years and have learned a few things I’d like to share. A meatball made of only lean meat is too dry. A combination of meats is the way to go. Baking them before adding to the sauce results in a far tastier end product. And the addition of fennel seeds to the tomato sauce just makes it all the more delicious and, well, Italian.
My most recent meat combination has been half pork stuffing (heavily laden with herbs) and half lean mince meat. I’ve tried this recipe with lean (5% fat) beef mince and also lean ostrich mince. It may sound like a strange meat to use, but I would really recommend giving it a try. It’s incredibly lean and high in protein. This, coupled with the fattier pork, results in a really tasty meatball. But don’t worry, if I haven’t convinced you, beef is
nearly just as good.
- The meatballs:
- 300g lean mince e.g beef or ostrich
- 340g herby pork stuffing mix/sausage meat (ensure this is without gluten if you are making it gluten free)
- The sauce:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 red onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 4 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 litre passata
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- To serve:
- 500g Pasta (gluten free if necessary)
- Parmesan (leave this out if you are making it dairy free)
- Fresh basil
Step 1: Start by making your meatballs by simply combining the two meats in a bowl and mixing well (although messy you’ll get the best results by using your hands, which are going to get messy in the next step anyway!)
Step 2: Roll small amounts of the mix between your two hands to make balls (the mix will make about 35 small balls although you can make them bigger if you wish).
Step 3: Place the balls on a baking tray and put in a preheated oven at 200c for 25 minutes (bear in mind if you make bigger balls they’ll take longer).
Step 4: Whilst the meatballs are cooking, make your sauce. On a medium heat, add your oil to a pan and your red onion, garlic and red pepper. Soften for 3-4 minutes, stirring every so often, to make sure the garlic and onion do not burn. Add your fennel seeds and chilli flakes (if using) and stir for a minute or two, before adding your passata and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste. Cook the sauce on a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Whilst this is simmering cook your pasta according to the packet instructions.
Step 5: Remove your meatballs from the oven and add to your sauce.
Step 6: When you are ready to serve, add cooked pasta to the sauce and coat evenly. Use some of the pasta cooking water to loosen if necessary.
Step 7: To serve, sprinkle Parmesan and torn fresh basil leaves over the pasta and meatballs.
These meatballs freeze well; freeze them separately to the sauce once they have been baked in the oven. They can be defrosted and then added to a sauce to heat through whilst the pasta is cooking.