This is one of my favourite pasta dishes, and yes, I do realise that I probably say that about all of them! The reason I enjoy making this so much is that I get to pop all the ingredients into a big bowl, and just squish it all together! It’s a kind of therapy, venting your minor annoyances of the day on a bowl of mushy stuff!
I love the way the mozzarella melts and makes a nuisance of itself as you try to serve it. This is a big favourite in our house.
It also freezes like a dream (without the mozzarella), and this is why it’s been our regular Christmas Eve dinner for years. I make it sometime in the middle of December, freeze it, then take it out on the morning of the 24th to be beautifully defrosted by the time we get back from our traditional Christmas Eve meet up in the pub with friends – 2 drinks only, no more! – scatter the Mozzarella over and it’s ready to eat in 30 minutes. It works like this on days that aren’t Christmas Eve too by the way 😉
- a very large mixing bowl
- a large lasagne dish or similar, a roasting tin will do too
- A large jug
INGREDIENTS: This will feed 6-8 hungry people.. ( or two ordinary people today, and 4-6 others on a date to be decided 😉 )
- 500g of minced beef
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 2-3 cloves of garlic crushed
- A little finely chopped red chilli (optional)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp dried oregano, or Italian herbs, or fresh of course if you have them.
- 50g breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp. sun dried tomato puree
- 25g freshly grated parmesan cheese
- A tablespoon of olive oil
- A generous sprinkle of salt and pepper – all of the above are the ingredients for the meatballs.
Later on you’ll need:
- about 1 tablespoon of plain flour
- 300ml beef stock
- 1/2 a glass of red wine
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- 225g mozzarella, pulled into pieces (optional, but I like it)
- Garlic bread
- Heat the oven to 180 fan.
- Put the first 11 ingredients into the bowl (down as far as the salt and pepper) – I use the recipe as a check-list so that I don’t forget anything – and mix together until completely combined – you can use your (clean, jewellery-free) hands to give the whole lot a really good mixing, until everything is well combined, and you’re feeling remarkably relaxed – (or you could use a couple of forks, or a hand mixer with dough hooks, but where’s the fun in that?)
- Now using the palms of your hands, roll the meatballs so that they are all about the same size – the size of a large walnut.
- Drizzle a little oil over the base of the roasting/lasagne dish.
- Put the meatballs into the roasting dish, leaving room between them so that they will brown nicely (they’re quite delicate at this stage)
- Cook in the oven at 180Fan for 15-20 mins until the meatballs are firm and slightly browned.
- While the meatballs are cooking, put the tinned tomatoes, the wine, and the stock into a large jug and combine. Put to one side.
- After the 20 minutes, remove the dish with the meatballs from the oven and sprinkle over the some of the flour – the juices from the meat will soak it up.
- Gently turn the meatballs over with a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour; try not to break up the meatballs.
- When the flour has been absorbed, pour over the stock, wine and tinned tomatoes mixture, and stir it in carefully.
- Return the dish to the oven for 20 mins until the tomato sauce is bubbling. Give it a stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the dish, and check the seasoning at this stage.
- About 5 mins before serving, tear the mozzarella into pieces, spread over the meatballs, return to the oven to melt over the top of the dish.
- Serve with spaghetti and garlic bread
- Sit back, relax, you’re at your Granny’s
- Don’t add the mozzarella, if you’re going to freeze this .
- I tend to count out the number of meatballs in a portion – this will depend on the size you’ve made them – and then I can label it accurately for future reference. I tend to use 5-6 of my meatballs per person.
- As I’m having some of this recipe for dinner this evening, I’ll decant enough for me and Mr Saturday Night, put it into a separate dish and add the mozzarella into that. That way the rest can go straight into containers destined for the freezer.
- I can’t explain how magical it is, on an evening when you’re too tired to cook, to find a container of these meatballs in the freezer. You’ll have to try it yourself to understand..