The best thing about meatballs is their infinite variety and the fact they are not an exact science. They will still be brilliant even if you are a little haphazard with the ratios and amounts. You can use any type of mince, including Quorn. The best meatballs are in fact made with a mixture of meat. So use whatever you have available. Always season well, and I don’t mean just with salt and pepper. You could use dried herbs, harissa paste, sweet chilli sauce, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, onion marmalade the possibilities are endless.
The beauty is you can also serve them with anything, couscous, rice, pasta, Bulgar Wheat, noodles, jacket potato or just some crusty bread. This amount makes thirty meatballs, so gives a family of four two meals with just one effort! But they would also be a lovely meal to leave for someone in isolation!
1kg mince – pork, beef, turkey, chicken, sausage meat, Quorn or a mixture of two tastes even better).
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic or a good squeeze of garlic paste
1 egg (or a spoonful of mayonnaise will help bind the mixture together).
75g Breadcrumbs – fresh or whatever you have
1 tbsp. Herbs: dried or fresh but thyme, sage and oregano all add a good punch, or a mixture.
2 tbsp. tomato puree or tomato sauce
Squeeze sweet chilli sauce (optional)
Good dash of Worcester or Soy sauce
Salt and pepper
The Tomato Sauce
Half of the above onion and garlic.
1 carrot grated
Any vegetables that need using up e.g. Courgette, spinach all finely chopped
2 tins tomatoes, or Passata
1 tsp chilli powder if you like a kick.
1 tbsp. Onion marmalade or pesto
2 tbsp. tomato puree, tomato sauce or pesto
Salt and pepper
Grated Cheese or Mozzarella
You will need a shallow casserole dish approximately 20cm x 28cm (which is large enough to hold half the meatballs and half the sauce) to which you’ve added a splash of cooking oil.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C Gas Mark 6. Chop the onion very finely and place in a medium size saucepan with a splash of cooking oil, and allow to soften without browning. Best way to achieve this is over a low heat with the lid on for 5-6 minutes, then add the finely chopped garlic, or paste, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Allow to cool.
2. While the onions and garlic are cooking, place your mince in a large bowl, add all the other meat ball ingredients and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Be brave with your flavourings. Add the egg if you’re using (or mayo) and finally half of the softened onions and garlic. Mix thoroughly. You should be able to form balls with your hands. If it feels too wet, add a few more breadcrumbs, but don’t make the mixture too dry. I aim for ping pong ball size, but it’s up to you. I prefer not to add flour, it just makes everything very sticky.
3. Swirl oil around the casserole dish and place half the meatballs in the dish. Place in the fridge to chill while you finish the sauce.
4. Add the grated carrot, and any other finely chopped vegetables, to the pan along with your chilli and cook on a high heat for 2 minutes to cook off the spice. Add the tinned tomatoes or Passata, the puree (or tomato sauce, onion marmalade, pesto etc.). Simmer for 30 minutes.
5. While the sauce is simmering, remove the meat balls from the fridge, drizzle a little oil over the top of each one and place them in the oven for 20 minutes.
6. Remove the meatballs and pour over half of the tomato sauce and return to the oven for another 30 minutes until bubbling. Serve with grated cheese or torn mozzarella placed on the top.
NOTE: You can freeze the remaining half of the meatballs cooked, or uncooked, by open freezing them on a tray and then placing in a freezer bag to store in the freezer. This way you can get out as many as you need for future meals. You can also freeze the remaining sauce. To resume the recipe cook the meatballs as from number 3 in the method. You can cook them from frozen, just make sure they are piping hot inside before adding the sauce.