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Meatballs and Pasta Sauce

by Jo Scarratt-Jones from Eat Well for Less: Quick & Easy Meals

A comforting and hearty crowd pleaser, this quick and easy dish, as seen on the BBC series, Eat Well For Less: Quick & Easy Meals, is packed with homemade meatballs and will give you plenty of leftovers.

From the book

Jo Scarratt-Jones, Gregg Wallace, Chris Bavin


Meatballs are easily available to buy, but home-made ones are the best – use whatever lean minced meat you fancy and season them with whichever spices you like. The sauce for these is packed full of vegetables, too, making it a great family meal.

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2 onions, cut into chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
3 sticks celery, cut into small chunks
2 x 500g cartons passata
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
small bunch of basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped
4 slices of stale wholemeal bread, roughly chopped or torn into pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp sea salt
1.2kg lean minced beef
2 eggs
160g frozen chopped spinach
450g dried wholemeal spaghetti
60g grated mozzarella or finely grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Put the onions into a large food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Heat an ovenproof casserole dish until hot, then add the olive oil and onions and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until just softened, stirring occasionally.

2 While the onions cook, put the carrots into the food processor and blitz until roughly chopped, then add the celery and process until both are finely chopped.

3 Add the carrots and celery to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, then add the passata, tomatoes and half of the basil and bring to the boil.

4 Meanwhile, put the bread, garlic, oregano, chilli powder, half of the salt and a good grind of black pepper into the same food processor and blitz until it forms fine crumbs. Add the minced beef and eggs and process together until everything is mixed evenly.

5 Tip the mixture out onto a tray or board and divide in half, then in half again, so you have four piles. Take one pile and divide into 12 small balls. Repeat with the remaining piles so you have 48 balls in total – 4 balls per person.

6 Season the tomato sauce with the remaining salt and plenty of black pepper, then add the frozen spinach and meatballs and stir gently. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce reduced slightly, stirring occasionally (if it’s looking a little dry, then cover with a lid). To check the meatballs are cooked through, lift one out and cut it in half –the meat should be brown and hot all the way through.

7 While the meatballs cook, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 100ml of the cooking water.

8 Decant half of the meatballs and sauce into a heatproof bowl and set aside to cool. Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the pan of remaining meatballs and sauce and stir really well until combined. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the last of the basil and the grated mozzarella or Parmesan.

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From the book: Eat Well for Less: Quick & Easy Meals

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