mediterranean meatballs with basil tomato saucerating:
Serves 4 - Prep 35min (plus 20min chilling)
1 large onion
Half tsp thyme leaves
400g can chopped tomatoes
Sugar Salt and pepper
20 basil leaves
15 pitted black olives
1 thick crustless slice of bread
Milk or thin cream for soaking
1 egg yolk
500g minced lamb
400g linguine Chunk of parmesan to serve
There is something gently therapeutic about making meatballs. It is so satisfying to roll them between your hands, turning a mound of minced meat into neat little spheres. These are cooked in a tomato sauce and served, Italian-style, over pasta.
The mixture can be doubled or trebled to feed more: just scale up everything in proportion.
Peel, halve and finely chop the onion. Melt half the butter in a large frying pan and soften the onion gently, stirring frequently and adding the thyme after 5 minutes.
Cook for about 15 minutes in total until the onions are limp and soft but hardly coloured. Tip half the onions into a mixing bowl and add the tomatoes to the onions left in the pan. Season with half a teaspoon of sugar, a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and about 150ml of water. Simmer the sauce for 10 minutes. Shred half the basil leaves and stir them into the sauce.
Chop the olives quite finely. Shred the remaining basil. Tear the bread into pieces and soak in the milk or cream until soggy. Give the soggy bread a squeeze to get rid of excess liquid and add it, the remaining basil, olives, egg yolk, meat and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper, to the onion in the mixing bowl.
Mix and mulch everything together with your hands. Leave them wet - this helps to prevent the meat from sticking to them - and pinch off small lumps of mixture, rolling between your palms into cherry tomato-sized balls. Lay the balls out on a plate as you go.
The dish can be kept waiting at his point; simply cover the plate with clingfilm and chill in the fridge. It's quite a good idea to chill the balls for about 20 minutes anyway, to encourage them to firm up.
Co-ordinate the pasta cooking time with the final stage of cooking the meatballs. Reheat the tomato sauce and, when it is bubbling away nicely, drop in all the balls, shaking the pan so that they are all immersed in tomato sauce. When the sauce has returned to boiling, reduce the heat and cover the pan.Cook for 6-8 minutes or until the balls are firm and cooked through. Pile the meatballs and sauce over the drained pasta. Serve immediately, with grated parmesan.