I was trying to figure out what makes spaghetti and meatballs so special and why when flavoured mince is turned into a ball and dropped into a sauce it is somehow appealing in a different way to spaghetti Bolognese. I didn’t come up with any final conclusion other than the nostalgia the dish conjures up and the way that a meatball eats. It’s got more texture when it’s cooked this way. You can flavour meatballs in different directions and each represents a pocket of completeness. The sauce and spaghetti are simply carriers for these heavenly orbs.
I developed this dish for my client ‘Raisins of South Africa’ and adapted one of my favourite spaghetti and meatball recipe. I worship Marcella Hazan’s genius and simple tomato sauce recipe. There is no better version for me so used it here. I add a little less butter than the original recipe, and for any meatballs sauce, I like a kick of chilli. I blended in half the cooked onion into the sauce at the end as another twist because I hate to waste these flavour bombs.
Adding raisins to meatballs is a very traditional Southern Italian thing and in Sicily, this is the order of the day. It’s the Middle Eastern influence on the cuisine in the area and pine nuts are often added too. I loved the slight sweetness they bring, and I processed them along with the herbs and garlic to form a paste before combining it with the mince.
I baked the meatballs as opposed to frying them and finishing them off in the sauce and it made the process less hands-on but choose either method you prefer. I like my meatballs quite small. They are easier to eat this way and I feel the meat gets more surface area to caramelize.
A few of my other favourite meatball recipes:
This recipe is enough for 4 people
Spaghetti & meatballs recipe
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes preferably of Italian origin
- 1 onion peeled and cut in half
- 50 gms butter
- ½ tsp dried chilli flakes optional
- Salt & pepper
Spaghetti and meatballs:
- 500 gms beef mince preferably free-range
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 free-range egg
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
- ½ cup breadcrumbs I used panko
- ¼ cup seedless raisins
- 10 gms parsley
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 300 gms spaghetti cooked al dente
- Additional Parmesan to serve
- Make the sauce first by putting all the ingredients into a medium-sized pot and bringing it to a simmer. Let it bubble away for 45 minutes to an hour.
- When you are ready to make your meatballs, preheat the oven to 175C / 347F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line it with a silicone sheet/baking paper. Make your meatballs by adding the mince, dried oregano, tomato paste, egg, cheese, and breadcrumbs to a large bowl.
- In a small food processor, blend the raisins, parsley, and garlic until it’s a paste. Add this to the bowl with the mince and using your hands, mix until everything is well combined. Season well with salt and pepper. It needs at least 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper.
- Roll out your meatballs and place them on the baking sheet allowing space in between each. Roast for 20 minutes and until firm and golden, or fry in olive oil until golden brown (but not cooked through). If you have made the meatballs slightly in advance, you can just heat them up in the sauce. If you have fried them, allow them to finish cooking in the sauce.
- When the tomato sauce is ready, remove the onion from the pot scraping off any sauce. Peel off all the softer inner petals of the onion (about half the onion) and using a stick blender, blend this into the sauce. You can of course simply remove it and it is delicious as is.
- Remove the meatballs from the oven and add them along with all the pan liquid to the sauce.
- Once things are well on the way to finishing, heat a large pot of salty water to boiling and cook your pasta to al dente. Drain and combine with the sauce and meatballs. Serve with grated parmesan.
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