Pasta and mini meatballs

I have a confession to make. It's been barely a week since my last meatball. Last night I was debating what to do with the minced beef in my fridge. Chilli? Maybe. Bolognaise? Not sure. Burgers? Nope. What I craved was a meatball. But I only had my Moroccan version a few days earlier and not that there are any hard and fast rules regarding how many times a week you should be allowed a certain food, common decency tells me there should be a good seven days in between. When that desire gets you though it sure is hard to shake. So I succumbed. However, to make myself feel a little better about it I decided to make them mini. Up until recently I really thought I had perfected the meatball making process. I'd nailed it. My method was always to combine meat, one whole egg, bread soaked in water - squeeze excess water and remove crusts - salt, pepper and I would then vary the extras (herbs, spices etc.) to suit. That's just how I do (did) it. I knew that I could soak the bread in milk, use breadcrumbs and just the yolk but I didn't because if it ain't broke and all that. This kind of thinking has got me into trouble before and I really should know better by this stage of my life but I seemingly never learn.

Anywho, a recent meatball making experience forced me to use breadcrumbs due to the sorry state of the bread: nothing was going to salvage this poor slice other than blitzing it into oblivion, which is exactly what I did. The moistness of the meatball surprised me but I was convinced it was fluke so I had to try the breadcrumb thing again. Not a fluke. Let me repeat: NOT A FLUKE! Totally deliciously moist. So that's it, no more soaking of the bread, it's breadcrumbs all the way from now on.


250g minced beef

1 egg

1 slice wholewheat bread

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

For the sauce:

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

400g canned tomatoes

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

1/4 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

350g any dried pasta

Chop or blitz bread until you have fine breadcrumbs. In a bowl mix beef, egg, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, basil, oregano and seasoning. I use the back of a metal dessert spoon. You could use a wooden spoon but I find it easier to get the texture I want with the metal spoon. Ensure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined before dividing the mixture into small balls (I use the same dessert spoon) - you should get around 17 mini meatballs. Refridgerate until you're ready to cook them.

Finely dice the onion. Heat a little oil in a frying pan (skillet). Add the onion, minced garlic cloves, seasoning and fry for several minutes. When the onion starts to colour add the chilli flakes, basil and oregano and cook slowly for a further 10 minutes.

Using a hand blender blitz the canned tomatoes until you get a smooth tomato sauce. Add to the pan along with the sugar, balsamic vinegar and seasoning. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a few minutes.

Place meatballs in the sauce and let colour on one side before turning. Occassionally spoon the sauce over the meatballs so they don't dry out. Cook meatballs for around 20minutes.

Meanwhile bring a large pan of water to the boil. Salt and add 350g dried pasta. Cook until al dente and drain.

Remove the meatballs from the sauce. Add the drained pasta to the pan with the sauce and mix. Divide pasta between three plates and top with the meatballs. I sometimes retain a little sauce and pour this over the meatballs before serving. Sprinkle with parmesan or any hard cheese.