This is a real crowd-pleaser that an Italian lady taught me to make when I was au-pairing in Rome. Rather then being fried, the meatballs are actually cooked in the tomato sauce. You really need lean meat for this otherwise you’ll have a lot of fat floating on the serface. Its up to you (and incidentally saturated fat is not the demon we were led to believe – much scientific evidence now to prove it).
If you would like to reduce the quantity of meat in the recipe, substitute cooked puy lentils for some of the meat. Raw meatballs freeze well too – just thaw thoroughly before cooking in tomato sauce.
For 5-6 big eaters
For the meatballs:
350g lean beef mince, organic if possible
350g lean lamb mince (or use extra beef mince if you prefer)
2 tbs freshly grated parmesan (if avoiding dairy, use 100% wholemeal gluten-free breadcrumbs instead of the cheese. If you eat gluten, normal brown crumbs are OK)
1 heaped tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A few good grinds of black pepper
1 organic egg, beaten
A pinch of himalayan or Atlantic sea salt
For the sauce:
1 litre passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 onion, peeled and halved.
1 dsp extra virgin olive oil
Small bunch fresh basil, rinsed, if you have it.
1. In a bowl combine all the meatball ingredients and mix well – the quickest way to do this is with your hands.
2. Shape into balls about ¾” in diameter and place in a single layer on a plate in the fridge to solidify for at least ½ hour if possible.
3. To make the tomato sauce combine the passata, the peeled halved onion and olive oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan or deep frying pan, bring to the boil, then simmer until the onion is translucent – usually about 20 minutes. This sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance if you wish.
4. To cook the meatballs, bring the tomato sauce up to the boil in your wide bottomed saucepan or frying pan, then gently slide the meatballs in so they form a single layer. Do not stir (or you will break up the meatballs), just shake gently if necessary to distribute the meatballs in a single layer.
5. Cook on a medium heat for around 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.
6. Remove the stalks from the basil, tear up roughly and add to the pan. Serve in bowls.
A large salad of green leaves and radicchio, cucumber and thinly sliced red onions
Optional extra (if you don’t want weight loss). Choose one:
A slice of gluten-free wholemeal bread or (if you eat gluten) some 100% wholemeal sourdough bread
2-3 baby boiled potatoes per person
Why this is good for you: Cooking meat at low temperature in the sauce avoids the production of the harmful oxidation products. Oxidation by products from charring food cause free radical damage, linked to digestive and skin problems, inflammation and premature ageing. Tomato sauce is very rich in lycopene, a potent anti ageing, anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Red meat is a good source of iron so for many people it’s useful to eat once or twice a week.
We ate this last weekend after arriving back from a few days away, desperate to get away from bland food. This is a beautiful, aromatic cook-in sauce for vegetables, white fish or lean meat. People always ask for the recipe when I serve it up. It is equally nice with fish, chickpeas, or chicken. You could also use it to reheat leftover cooked lamb or beef or as a cook-in sauce for peeled prawns. It stores well in the freezer so you could make a large batch, freeze in individual portions, and thaw as needed. this amount of sauce is enough for 4 people, or 2 with leftover sauce to put in the freezer.
3 medium onions
3cm piece fresh ginger
2 large fat cloves garlic (optional)
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil (or olive oil if you can’t get coconut)
1 rounded tsp ground coriander
1 level tsp ground cardamom
1/2 level tsp ground cloves
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp turmeric
1/3–½ level tsp chilli powder (optional – avoid if you don’t like heat!)
1 x 65ml tin coconut milk (or 60g creamed coconut + 300ml/1¼ cups boiling water)
300ml/1¼ cups passata (sieved tomatoes) or 1 tin tomatoes, liquidized
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
A food processor/liquidiser
1. Finely dice the onion, grate the ginger and crush the garlic. Place in a saucepan with the coconut oil or olive oil and 1 tbsp water and sweat them with the lid on over a low heat until the onion begins to soften/go translucent.
2. Add the spices and sweat for a few more minutes.
3. If using creamed coconut, dissolve it in the boiling water and place it in a food processor. If using coconut milk place in the processor with around 200ml water. Add two-thirds of the onion mixture and process until smooth.
4. Put the processed mixture back into the pan and add the passata and fresh coriander. Simmer for 5 mins, then season to taste with pepper.
5. Freeze in containers ready for future use or use for cooking any of the ideas below.
6. Serve with brown rice.
Cook-in ideas (just heat sauce in a heavy-bottomed saucepan to prevent burning, add your ingredients to be cooked, then cover with a lid):
Fish & veg: Allow 100-120g white fish (skinned and cut into 2.5cm cubes) and 2 cups of broccoli florets or thawed/fresh peas per person. If using broccoli, cook it in the sauce until almost done, then add the fish, which only takes a few minutes. If using peas, you can add the fish and peas at the same time.
Chicken & veg: Allow 100g chicken fillet (cut in 1cm slices or 2cm cubes) plus 2 cups sliced runner beans or broccoli florets per person. Heat the sauce, add everything else, cover with a lid and cook till done, stirring occasionally (around 10 minutes).
Chickpeas & veg: Allow 1 cup of cooked drained chickpeas plus 2 cups green veg (eg. broccoli florets or green beans) per person. Throw the whole lot into the simmering sauce, cover with a lid and cook for around 8 minutes until the vegetables are softened but not overcooked.
Why this is good for you: Research shows that all spices have anti-aging, antioxidant, health-boosting properties. Onions and garlic are great sources of soluble fibre, which feeds the helpful gut bacteria needed for proper digestion, mental clarity, and clear skin. Soluble fibre also binds to natural and man-made toxins (such as chemicals, used-up hormones, and medications) in your digestive system, ensuring that they exit the body quickly and as safely as possible.