Free from / gluten-free / Meat

Ultimate meatballs in tomato sauce


I admit that there are as many recipes for meatballs out there as there are Italian grandmothers. But I urge you to have faith and try these succulent beauties as it’s just ridiculous how good they are. I would venture as far as to say that they are the last word in meatballs…and the sauce is pretty damn fine too.

I found a lonely and forgotten portion of this dish hidden in my freezer the other night when I was home alone and wrung out from work (to paint the scene: I couldn’t even face waiting for the oven to preheat for fishfingers – so on a scale of 1 to bleak, pretty bleak). I usually forget about whatever I shove in the freezer so finding something exciting in what is otherwise a place where bread goes to die is like fishing out a crumpled £10 note in the pocket of half-worn jeans when you were expecting a used tissue. I almost cried with happiness*.

*A slightly dramatic anecdote to prove my love for this humble meatball but true, nonetheless. If it adds to the story’s plausibility, it was also raining and I was without an umbrella.

Unconvinced and craving Ikea’s finest? These are half-steamed and half-poached in the sauce which keeps them wondrously moist and the sauce has a sinful amount of butter in it. Comforting, crowd-pleasing perfection.

What’s your family recipe?


Ultimate meatballs in tomato sauce

Serves a hungry 4


For the sauce:

– 60g unsalted butter
– 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
– 2 small onions, finely diced
– 2 tins chopped tomatoes
– seasoning

For the meatballs:

– 2 slices (stale) bread*, whizzed into breadcrumbs
– 80ml milk
– 400g lean minced beef
– 60g finely grated parmesan, plus extra for serving
– large bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
– 1 heaped tablespoon English mustard
– 2 garlic cloves, pressed
– few dashes Tabasco sauce
– seasoning

– 400g dry spaghetti*

*Be sure to use gluten-free versions if you’re GF!


For the sauce, melt the butter in a wide-based pan on a medium heat and add the chilli flakes and onions. Sweat for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, being careful not to brown them. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, season and gently simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce is getting too thick, add a little water to it.

While the sauce is simmering, you can make the meatballs…

In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs and milk together and leave to stand for a few minutes. Put the mince, parmesan, parsley (reserving a little for garnishing), mustard, garlic, Tabasco (up to you how hot you go…), a pinch of salt and a good few grinds of black pepper into a large mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs and mix everything together using your fingers. Tip: Try to use your fingers like a large fork/claw to avoid overmixing or making your meatballs too dense.

With your palms, roll the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball – you should get about 16 meatballs out of the mixture. Pop them into the fridge to chill until your sauce is ready.

When the sauce is ready, gently arrange the meatballs in the saucepan. The sauce will probably not cover them completely. Cover with a lid and simmer for 15-20 minutes, turning the meatballs half way through, until they are cooked through.

While the meatballs are cooking, place the spaghetti into a large pan of salted water and cook according to its instructions.

Spoon the meatballs out of the sauce and set aside. Add the pasta to the sauce, mix, and divide between four serving bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining cheese and parsley.



Source: Recipe and photos by pip & little blue.


One thought on “Ultimate meatballs in tomato sauce

  1. Pingback: Feta, courgette & chilli savoury muffins | pip & little blue

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