Baked Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce
This recipe for baked meatballs with a rich tomato sauce and oozing mozzarella cheese is a comforting family favourite that will go down well with a hungry crowd, and prepared all in one pan for maximum ease.
If you are not yet a convert to anchovies, rest assured they add a delicious, subtle, salty richness to a sauce. There are some really good ready-prepared meatballs on the market now, so if short of time just add to the home-made sauce.
|3 tbsp||olive oil|
|3||onions, finely chopped|
|3||garlic cloves, crushed|
|2||chopped anchovy fillets (optional)|
|500g (1lb 2oz)||beef mince|
|125g (4½oz)||fresh bread crumbs|
|1 tbsp||dried oregano|
|Salt and pepper|
|For the rich tomato sauce:|
|1 x 400g (14oz) can||chopped tomatoes|
|600ml (1 pint)||passata|
|2 tbsp||tomato purée|
|1 tbsp||brown sugar|
|1 tbsp||red wine vinegar|
|250g (9oz)||mozzarella, drained and torn|
You will need: a deep, oven-proof frying pan.
1. For the meatballs: heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large deep frying pan, add the onions and cook gently until softened but not coloured. Add the garlic and anchovy fillets, if using. Increase the heat and cook for a few minutes. Spoon half the onion mix into a large bowl and the other half into a small bowl.
2. When the reserved onions in the large bowl have cooled, add the beef mince, breadcrumbs, oregano and egg with plenty of seasoning. Mix with your hands, then using wet hands shape into 20 meatballs. Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and brown the meatballs in batches, adding more oil, as you need – the meatballs should be almost cooked through. Spoon the meatballs out of the pan on to a plate.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan oven 160°C, Gas mark 4.
4. For the rich tomato sauce: wipe the frying pan clean and return the remaining cooked onions to the pan. Add the thyme, tomatoes, passata, tomato purée, brown sugar and red wine vinegar, and bring to a simmer. Bubble for 25 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Season to taste.
5. Return the meatballs to the pan.
6. Scatter the mozzarella on top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are piping hot and cooked through, and the cheesey top is golden and bubbling. Serve with a tomato and cucumber salad.