Nella’s Meatballs

Nella’s Meatballs

Meatballs are a much loved food in my home.  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 and changing the cooking method slightly to make a juicy meatball.  Once you’ve made these meatballs, you’ll wonder why you’ve not made them before.

Ingredients for 4 servings

200g extra lean beef mince
200g extra lean pork mince
70g panko breadcrumbs
40g parmesan, freshly grated
1 whole egg
20g pesto
800g chopped tomatoes, blended until smooth
2 garlic clove, crushed
6g olive oil
300g dried pasta
pinch sugar
100ml water
salt and pepper

(Example ingredient amounts given, adjust accordingly to your requirements)


  • Take a large bowl and add your mince, breadcrumbs, 1 of the garlic cloves, 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 remaining 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.
  • As the sauce is heating up, take your meatball mix out of the fridge and start to form your meatballs.
  • 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 use lean mince I felt it dried out the meatball.
  • 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.
  • I use a microplane grater to grate my 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.
  • I like to use Parmigiano Reggiano for its fuller flavour.
  • 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!
Nella Foulds
Nella Foulds

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