Cheesy Meatballs with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Linguine

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These meatballs are brilliant for all the family. In fact, I got my two sons, aged nine and six, to make the meatballs while I got on with making the sauce.

There are some optional extras for adults – like whole green chillies – that you can add to give it a real kick. Fortunately, though, my children love some fire in their bellies and this delivered in spades.

Serves 4-6 (makes around 20 child’s fist sized meatballs)

For the meatballs

500g beef mince
6 good quality pork sausages, skinned and meat removed
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50g strong Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
1 tbsp dried Italian mixed herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

500g tomato passata
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Dried linguine and grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

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1. First make the meatballs (or get your kids to do it). Put all the ingredients in a bowl and squish them together with clean hands until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and evenly distributed.

2. Pinch off a piece of the mixture and form into a golf ball-sized ball in the palms of your hands. Do this until you’ve used all the mince mixture.

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3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a gentle heat. Add the meatballs in batches to the pan and gently cook, turning every couple of minutes, until they are browned all over. Cook for approx. 5-7 mins, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Set aside.

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4. Make the sauce by adding the tomato passata, herbs, garlic and sugar to a saucepan and bring to a lower simmer. Cook for 5 mins to cook out the rawness.

5. Add the semi-cooked meatballs to the sauce and continue to simmer for around 15 mins, until the sauce thickens and the meatballs are cooked all the way through.

6. Meanwhile, heat a large pan of salted water and cook the linguine according to packet instructions, approx. 8-9 mins until al dente.

7. Drain the pasta and distribute to plates. Serve a big helping of meatballs and sauce on top of the linguine.

8. Scatter over grated Parmesan, if you like. Take care not to bite into those green chillies or you’ll know about it!

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