Meatballs in a rich tomato sauce

This sauce is rich and tangy, with a real depth to it. The longer it cooks down and the darker the colour, the better it gets. When making this sauce I tend to make enough for two meals and freeze half for a later date, and I think it’s always better the second time around. Defrost in the fridge overnight, fry off your meatballs and deglaze the pan with some more red wine (mystery solved – that’s probably what makes it even better the second time round), then add the sauce and meatballs back in and simmer for 10 minutes while cooking your pasta. Try substituting aubergines for the meatballs and leaving out the parmesan for a vegetarian option.

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Serves 2 with half the sauce, and the rest for freezing.

  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 20 small meatballs (I use beef)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp unami paste (or a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce added with the passata if you can’t find this)
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 540g passata
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Manchego or parmesan, shaved into flakes (I like the nutty flavour of manchego here)
  • Tagliatelle, to serve

Add the oil to a deep frying pan over a high heat. Fry the meatballs for a few minutes until browned on the outside (they will continue to cook in the sauce later), and remove from the pan.

Lower the heat and to the pan add your onion and garlic and fry for 5 minutes, or until softened and golden. Add the tomato puree and unami paste and cook for a further minute. Add the red wine and turn up the heat, leaving it to simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the passata, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir together and leave gently simmering on a low heat for 10 minutes, then add the meatballs back in. Cover and leave for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer this sauce cooks down for, the deeper the flavour gets.

Check and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Cook some tagliatelle, or maybe courgette ribbons, and serve with the meatballs, with some manchego shavings on top.

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