It’s possible that any self respecting Italian Mama may recoil in horror at my version of a pasta sauce, but in my defence I’ll say that it’s quick, cheap, tasty & that we all love it! The quantities here will serve 2-3 people (or 3-4 smaller ones!), so just increase everything if you are feeding more people or feeling hungry.
I’ll start with the sauce, as that can be gently bubbling away on the hob whilst the meatballs are being prepared. Everything goes in the pan together:
- a tin of chopped tomatoes (including the juice). Rinse the tin out with a glug of water and pour that into the pan too.
- a generous squirt of tomato paste (a squirt = about a tablespoon)
- a couple of heaped teaspoons of sundried tomato pesto
- one or two sundried tomatoes (optional) snipped into pieces with scissors
- one or two fresh tomatoes, chopped
- a good pinch of sea salt and a grind of black pepper
- ½ a teaspoon of sugar (not essential, but it helps reduce the acidity of the tomatoes)
Mix everything together and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down so that the sauce is just very gently bubbling and then prepare the meatballs:
- 250g minced beef
- a few fresh breadcrumbs (about 1 slice of bread) (the addition of even more breadcrumbs will make the meat go a bit further)
- ½ a medium onion, finely chopped
- a pinch or two of dried mixed herbs (or fresh ones if they’re available)
First of all turn the oven on to 180°C. Put all the ingredients for the meatballs into a fairly roomy bowl (brace yourself if you’re squeamish!) then plunge your hands into the mixture and squidge everything together until fairly well blended. (It may be possible to use a spoon to do this but it won’t be nearly so satisfying!) Shape the mixture firmly into meatballs, making them whatever size you prefer.
Pour the tomato sauce into an oven proof dish. If you think it’s a bit too thick, just add a bit of water to it first. Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs for a few minutes until they are brown all over, then put them on top of the sauce in the dish. Put this into the oven for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are completely cooked through.
Tasty and simple!
There are a few additions that may be made to this dish to enhance it:
- to the tomato sauce try adding a clove (or two!) of crushed garlic, a few fresh basil leaves or even a few olives if you’re feeling exotic
- before the dish goes into the oven, scatter some chopped/grated mozzarella cheese over the top or, again, a few fresh basil leaves
To serve this meal with pasta of any kind I would usually work on 80-100g per person, depending on whether it’s for someone peckish or someone who’s ravenous, but a colourful side salad could be served instead