Italian Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Italian MeatballsItalian MeatballsItalian Meatballs

Classic Italian Meatballs in a Tomato Sauce

What could look more magnificent than a giant steaming white bowl of Italian meatballs and pasta in a rich tomato sauce. I’m not sure meatballs have that great a reputation in Britain. They are a bit of a desert island dish for me. And so cheap to make, even if they do take a little time. These Italian meatballs use a mixture of minced beef and and pork. Get it from the butcher – the texture will be so much better than what you can get in the supermarket. The secret ingredient in these meatballs is finely chopped raisins. Sounds a little strange, but they melt in while cooking and add a sweetness to the meat, making it that bit more special. With all dishes like this, its taste even better on the second day, so if possible make a day ahead.

This is ideal with homemade tagliatelle. I also love it American style with spaghetti. It is also really good on toasted sourdough. Whatever way you eat this dish, make sure to enjoy it with a glass of red wine.

This makes enough for 6


For the Meatballs

250g minced beef

250g lean minced pork

3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs

1tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp grated Parmesan Cheese

1 tbsp raisins, very finely chopped

1 large egg

1 tsp sea salt

generous grinding of black pepper

For the Tomato Sauce

3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, very finely chopped

3 small dried bird’s eye chillies

75ml white wine

3 garlic cloves, bashed and finely chopped

3 400g can Plum tomatoes

1 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley to finish, or basil would be lovely


Begin by making the meatballs. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl. Roll into tight little balls and lay out on a large plate. If the mixture is sticking to your hands you can wet them to prevent this. Set in the refrigerator for half an hour.

Meanwhile make the sauce. Heat up the oil in a large heavy based pot. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and soften slowly for about 10 minutes. Add a very generous pinch of salt at the beginning as well, to stop everything browning too much. 

Now add the wine and reduce until almost dry again. Add the tomatoes and crush them with a potato masher. The sauce shouldn’t be chunky, but not completely smooth either. Add 400ml water. Cook at a slow simmer.

When the meatballs are cold and set you can plop them into the sauce. Do this one by one so they don’t get bashed about and broken up.

Cook this for 1 – 2 hours slowly with a lid off so the sauce can becomes rich and thick. Check for seasoning and stir in the parsley.

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