I haven't met a child, or adult, yet who does not love these meatballs. The sauce is rich and sweet and the meatballs are tender and easy to chew - which is important to my children who are a tiny bit pathetic when it comes to eating meat. They're pretty easy to make and they freeze beautifully. They're known affectionately in our house as "Jamie Meatballs" because the recipe once belonged to Jamie Oliver. It's been a long, long, long, long, long time since I looked at that recipe, so this is my version - beloved of everyone, rejected by none.
For the sauce
4 tins whole plum tomatoes 2 cloves garlic, minced 1tbsp dried oregano Splash red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar 1tsp sugar (optional) Olive Oil Salt and pepper
For the meatballs
1 onion finely chopped 1 garlic clove minced 500g pork mince (you could use beef but I find pork is lighter) Handful of fresh breadcrumbs (I say fresh but mine invariably come out of the freezer - I blitz up leftover bread and freeze the crumbs in bags for moments such as this.) 1tbsp ground cumin 2tbsp dried oregano 1 egg Salt and pepper
To make the sauce - heat a good lug of olive oil in a large pan, then add the garlic and the oregano. Heat gently to release the flavours, do not burn the garlic, it should soften but not go brown. Pour in the cans of tomatoes - leaving them whole for a sweeter sauce. Leave to cook on a low heat for 1 hour stirring gently from time to time.
For the meatballs - fry the onion and garlic until softened and leave to cool slightly. Mix the mince, breadcrumbs, cumin, oregano, a good pinch of salt and a grind of pepper and the egg together. Add the onion and garlic once cool enough to handle. Roll into meatballs - whatever size you like. Brown the meatballs in a little olive oil then set aside. Pre heat your oven to 180c
To finish the sauce - after an hour your sauce should have reduced but the tomatoes should still be whole. If you use chopped tomatoes your sauce will have a bitter and more acidic edge because of the tomato seeds - you can counteract this with a tsp of sugar. If you leave your tomatoes whole until this point you won't need the extra sugar. You will, however, need to now crush your tomatoes against the side of the pan with the back of your spoon to make a smoother sauce. Add the vinegar and a good lug of olive of oil. Season the sauce and then pour into an oven proof dish and gently drop in the meatballs. Cover and cook in the oven for 40-50 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.
Serve with whatever pasta shape your children are currently deigning to eat - we're on pasta twists and the occasional bit of spaghetti.
For a grown up version pop some chilli flakes in the sauce and serve with wine.