Nella’s Meatballs

Nella’s Meatballs
Prep TimeCook TimeCaloriesProtein
5 minsapprox 30 mins58544.5g

Meatballs are much loved by my family to the point where we have them every Friday! Making meatballs evokes memories of making them as a child with my mum and I have evolved the recipe enhancing the elements that I love. Changing the cooking method slightly has resulted in a juicy meatball.  Once you’ve made these meatballs, you’ll wonder why you’ve not made them before.

Ingredients for 4 servings

(3 meatballs per person)

400gextra lean pork mince
70gpanko breadcrumbs
20gparmesan, freshly grated
1whole egg
800gchopped tomatoes, blended until smooth
1garlic clove, crushed
6golive oil
280gdried pasta
 salt and pepper


  • Take a large bowl and add your mince, breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, pesto and a little salt and pepper.
  • Take a couple of minutes to mix everything together with your hands.
  • Crack the egg and add this to the bowl again mixing with your hands before putting it in the fridge while you prep your sauce.  This is going to help your meatballs to bind together.
  • Take a large sauce pan and put it onto a medium heat before adding the olive oil and crushed garlic.
  • Let the garlic infuse the oil without burning and add the tomatoes and water.
  • Give these a mix before adding the pinch of sugar and a little seasoning.
  • Stir the sauce and let it come to the boil before reducing to a simmer.
  • As the sauce is heating up, take your meatball mix out of the fridge and start to form your meatballs.
  • To make your meatballs a uniform size, follow the instructions below the notes section. Don’t be tempted to make huge meatballs as these will take longer to cook.
  • As the you shape the meatballs, pop them in the sauce as this is going to poach them leaving them juicy.  I used to fry them before putting them in the pan but because I found frying them made them a little dry.
  • When all the meatballs are in the sauce and the sauce has come up to the boil, pop a lid on and turn the pan down to a simmer and leave to cook for approximately 30 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes check the sauce and if the heat is too high and the sauce is reducing too quickly turn the heat down to its lowest setting and leave for another 15 minutes.
  • After a total of 30 minutes, and providing your meatballs aren’t huge, they should be ready. Take a meatball out of the pan and put it on a plate.  Press the meatball with a fork, and if it’s firm to the touch it will be cooked, but cut it in half to check that there is no pink meat.
  • When you are happy that the meatballs are cooked and you’re happy with the sauce, taste the sauce to make sure that it’s seasoned and add any more if necessary.
  • Put a pan of boiling water onto the heat and cook your pasta according to the manufacturers instructions.
  • Remove the meatballs from the sauce and mix the pasta with the remaining sauce.
  • Top each plate with meatballs and prepare for compliments!


  • Make sure your mince is extra lean, less than 5% of fat per 100g.
  • Sometimes I like to prep the meatballs the day before and leave them in the fridge so that the flavours intensify.
  • To save time, use passata instead of tinned chopped tomatoes.
  • I like to use panko breadcrumbs because they leave the meatballs feeling light, but you can use fresh breadcrumbs instead.  I don’t recommend you use the ‘orange’ packet breadcrumbs.
  • Use a microplane grater to grate parmesan.  It makes a little go a long way!
  • In Italian cooking we use a really small pinch of sugar to take out any acidity from the tomatoes.
  • Feel free to use whatever pasta shape you like.  Sometimes I use rigatoni, tagliatelle, penne or spaghetti.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano is fuller in flavour and the best in my view.
  • Make one freeze one! Double up on the ingredients and make another batch of the meatball mix for the freezer for another day.  Make the meatball mixture as shown and freeze it without forming the balls.
  • When buying pesto, check the ingredients list and buy the one with the highest percentage of basil.  It may surprise you but normally the stores own brand comes out tops!

A word on portioning and shaping meatballs

As a child I hated getting the rouge tiny meatball, so to ensure that everyone gets their fair share, I’ve devised this simple method to make sure all meatballs are the same (especially important if you’re making this while working to a fitness/calorie goal).

  • Take the finished meatball mix and weight it.
  • Divide the total weight by the number of meatballs you’d like to make.
  • Weigh the meatball mix as you make the balls.

Nutritional Information

Per serving


Recipe first added October 2019. Updated May 2022.

Nella Foulds
Nella Foulds

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