Cheat’s meatballs, these (what on earth did you think I meant?). You can tweak the flavourings to your heart’s content but all you really need is some seriously good-quality sausage meat and an egg to bind it. Paired with a quick home-made tomato sauce and a robust pasta, this makes a very satisfying supper.
I like Italian fennel sausage with this recipe. I also like sausage flavoured with lots of black pepper. Both work equally well, or you can add herbs and spices to suit your own preferences. You need something with a bit of punch and texture. Just don’t buy what my family used to call ‘city sausage’ – that bland, pink, squishy stuff that looks like something alien leaking from the ceiling of a spaceship in a sci-fi film.
These little meatballs freeze well so if you have space, make extra, cook them and freeze them for a super-easy supper down the line. Then just drop them (defrosted) into a pre-made tomato sauce and bingo, supper sorted on one of those nights when even ‘phoning for a takeaway seems like too much effort.
700-800g good quality sausage meat
Flavourings of your choice
1 egg, beaten
A few fresh herbs to garnish and some grated parmesan
If you’re using sausages rather than sausage meat, slit the skins and peel them off. Put the sausage meat into a big bowl and add any extra flavourings – try lightly bashed fennel seeds, black pepper, chilli, grated onion, oregano or parsley.
Bind with a beaten egg and form into small balls the size of a marble. Put some plain flour on a plate and roll the meatballs in it to coat them lightly.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches until they’re brown all over. Don’t crowd the pan or they’ll steam instead of frying. Place on kitchen paper to drain. You can freeze them at this point, once cooled.
When you’re ready to eat, put the tomato sauce in a deep frying pan, add the meatballs and cook until they’re re-heated all the way through. In a separate pan, cook a quantity of pasta, drain, stir some of the tomato sauce into the pasta and serve the meatballs and remaining sauce on top. Garnish with a few herbs and grate over some parmesan cheese.
Tomato and Basil Sauce
About 1 kg of fresh tomatoes, skinned and de-seeded or 2 x 400g tins Italian plum tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of basil, leaves plucked from stems and roughly chopped
And/or 1-2 fresh chillies or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
If you’re using fresh tomatoes, put them in a big bowl, pour boiling water over them and leave for one minute. Pour off the water and when they’re cool enough to handle slip off the skins and squeeze out most of the seeds.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the squished tomatoes (or the tinned tomatoes, well drained). Add the chillies at this point if you want a spicy sauce. Cook until they’ve broken down and you have a thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the ripped up basil leaves.
Reduced to the right thickness and minus the chillies this is equally good as a pizza topping or the basis of a soup. It’s very versatile and a great way of using up a glut of tomatoes if you grow your own and have the freezer space.