What can be better than a huge, steaming dish of spaghetti and meatballs? Rice and meatballs? This dish goes well with both but since there is always lots left over, the remainder gets used to add to cooked fettuccine, placed in a foil package or individual packages, covered with mozzarella and baked for 10 minutes or so. This is actually my favourite way to serve meatballs and there is something about the mozzarella sticking to the foil, all gooey and hot that makes it taste even better. As with most sauces, this tastes even better the next day so you can prepare this in advance although the kids might complain!
The kids love helping with this dish but you have to watch over them whilst they scrub their little hands both before and afterwards as their tiny fingers are ideal for rolling the little meatballs whilst raw. They also love plopping them into the sauce but make sure they are wearing aprons.
500g minced beef
1 grated tablespoon Parmesan cheese
3 grated tablespoons cheddar cheese
1 minced garlic clove
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
The Tomato Sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
20g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
700g (1 bottle) tomato passata-if only cartons available at 500g, use two.
350g chicken/vegetable stock
Small tablespoon caster sugar
125ml full fat milk (use semi if you prefer)
Put all meatball ingredients into a bowl and mix, adding black pepper to taste. Get the kids to sit round the table and shape little balls, about a teaspoon per meatball. You'll get loads, around 40-60, depending on the size of the teaspoon! Cover the meatballs and put in fridge; this makes them less likely to break up when it is time to cook them.
The tomato sauce is almost the same as for the lasagna. Put onion and garlic into processor and blitz to a pulp. Heat the butter and oil in a pan over a low heat and cook onion mixture for around 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it, you do not want it to go brown or burn. Stir every now and then.
Add passata and stock, sprinkle in sugar and a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you wish, you can add a dash of wine but I tend not to do that for this dish. Let the sauce bubble away for 10 minutes and then add the milk. Stir and let it come back to the boil.
Take the meatballs out of the fridge and drop them one at a time into the sauce. Do not stir to begin with even if you can see the top of some of the meatballs. Shake the pan a little and wait a few minutes. Then, give a gentle stir with a wooden spoon, turn the sauce down a little...you still want it boiling though, a heavy simmer if you like, and partially cover pan with a lid. After 20 minutes, it will be ready. Taste and add some seasoning if you need it.
Serve with spaghetti, rice or fettuccine. With spaghetti, add a good grating of Parmesan. With fettuccine, add the mozzarella and bake in foil. Delicious!
This recipe has been adapted from a Nigella recipe in her book 'Feast'.