Meatballs with Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce

One of the first films I saw in the cinema was 'Lady and the Tramp' with my dad when I was about 4 years old. If you have seen the film then I'm sure you will remember that romantic scene where Lady and Tramp share a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with an Italian man playing 'Bella Note' in the background? He gives her the last meatball and they both munch the same piece of spaghetti and they kiss - so sweet!

The first time I made spaghetti and meatballs was for some broken-hearted girlie friends at uni. For that reason, I have always thought of them as real comfort food, hence I made them for the comfort food round in the semi-final of Real Food Family Cook Off.

I experimented with all sorts of meats, herbs, ways to bind them and so on when I was practicing the recipe for the show, and I came up with the meatball recipe below, which is really the best. Pork mince keeps them light and not too greasy. Soggy bread helps keep them moist and acts as a brilliant binding agent along with the egg. The lemon, mustard and herbs flavour the meatballs beautifully.

I serve the meatballs with a tomato and red pepper sauce, but use your favourite tomato sauce if you prefer. If you are making the meatballs for a special occasion then some shaved parmasan and fresh basil are lovely sprinkled on top.

They are also fairly kiddie friendly - just leave the chilli out of the sauce and chop the meatballs for little ones. Joshua loves these meatballs and cannot get enough of them.

Please given them a try - and the sauce. You will feel like your dinner jumped off your plate and gave you a great big hug!

Filipa x

Picture from www.channel5.com

Meatballs with Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce: Serves 4 Adults

Time: 15 mins prep + 20 mins cooking

Cost:  £1.42 (including spaghetti)

Calories: 716 per serving (including spaghetti)

For the meatballs:

  • 500g (1lb) low fat pork mince
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 slice of bread soaked in milk (squeeze out any excess milk)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying

For the tomato and red pepper sauce:

  • 1 large or 2 small red peppers, diced and seeds removed
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
  • 500g passata
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 1 tbsp basil, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To serve:

  • 350g spaghetti
  • Fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • Parmesan shavings (optional)
  1. Start by making the sauce. Fry the onion and peppers for around 5 minutes in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and chilli if using and cook for a further few minutes. Add the passata and the remaining ingredients, except the crème fraiche, and leave to simmer on a low heat, partially covered, while you make the meatballs.
  2. To make the meatballs simply throw all the ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix everything together really well. It helps to have the ingredients at room temperature for this step so it wont feel so cold! Mix for a good 5 minutes to ensure the mixture is smooth and everything is well combined.
  3. Divide the mixure into 20 pieces roughly and roll into small, walnut sized balls. Fry the meatballs in a large frying pan (you might have to do them in batches) in hot oil turning frequently until they are browned all over.
  4. While the meatballs are frying, blend the sauce using a hand blender until smooth and stir in the crème fraiche. At this point it's a good idea to get a large pan ready with boiling water to cook your spaghetti.
  5. When the meatballs are cooked, place them on kitchen paper to remove any excess grease before adding them to the sauce.
  6. Allow the meatballs to simmer in the sauce on a low heat while you cook your spaghetti (this should take around 10 minutes). Serve the meatballs and sauce over the cooked spaghetti, topped with basil leaves and parmesan shavings if you wish.

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