As the title suggests, it’s a rainy old June day in Wokingham. Of course, the only thing to do was make meatballs…and I turned to my old mate Jamster for some meaty inspiration.  Taking it back to the old school and the first cookery book that we ever took seriously, I found a nice little recipe for this cracking little tea. A dish that can only be described as a total crowd pleaser. The full ingredients list and cooking method can be found in Jamie Oliver’s ‘Ministry of Food’.  

In addition, with a little extra effort you can make it both child and adult friendly. I made two batches of meatballs, one with added dried chilli and one without. Luckily, I didn’t get them mixed up. That could have been a whole different story.

To make our version of this dish (serves four) you will need: 

For the meatballs:

– 500g of lean minced meat (we used a combo of pork and beef) 

– Four sprigs of fresh rosemary (leaves only/finely chopped)

– 12 cream crackers (smashed up in a food bag or a blender until fine)

– One heaped teaspoon of dried oregano 

– One large free range egg

– Two heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard

– Salt and black pepper

– Olive oil 

To make the sauce:

– Olive oil 

– One medium onion (peeled/finely chopped)

– Four cloves of garlic (peeled/finely chopped)

– Two tins of chopped tomatoes

– Two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar 

– 3/4 bunch of fresh basil leaves 

– Salt and black pepper

Other ingredients:

– 400g of dried spaghetti 

– Cheddar/Parmesan cheese (optional)

Method:

– To make the meatballs, add all of the meatball ingredients into a large mixing bowl and bind together, including the chilli if using (with very clean hands). 

– Divide the mixture into four balls and split into six smaller balls per large ball. Place on a plate, drizzle with olive oil and shake until fully coated. Cover and refrigerate until needed. 

– To make the sauce, heat a good lug of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook for around 7 minutes or until softened and golden. Then add the garlic and the basil leaves as soon as it starts to colour. Tip in the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste and stir well. 

– Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat. Meanwhile, cook the pass according to the packet instructions and heat a large lug if olive oil in a frying pan. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning frequently until browned and golden all over, plus thoroughly cooked through.

– When cooked, introduce the meatballs to the sauce and leave them to poach for a few minutes until the spaghetti is ready to serve. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water, drain and return to the pan with half the tomato sauce, adding a little cooking water to loosen. 

– Serve on plates with the rest of the sauce and meatballs on top. Ganish with the remaining basil leaves and a little grated cheese if desired. 

This is just what I fancied today. A comforting, tasty and familiar dish to fight those ‘it should be nice and sunny in June’ blues. The meatballs are substantial and the sauce is rich and herby. Classic case of simple flavours done well…Italians really do have it nailed. 

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