Meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce

Everyone has their food predilections and eating quirks. Maybe you insist on drinking straws and only eat pizza with a knife and fork.

I will eat a bowl of boiled baby potatoes dressed warm with a soy sauce and Tabasco dressing and call that a happy meal. It’s not particularly nutritious or even a taste sensation. What I like are the flashbacks to the hours spent pottering around the family vegetable garden when I was little. We grew peanuts, water chestnuts, snow peas, beans, marrows, chillis, herbs and potatoes amongst other things. There was such joy in yanking out potato plants and digging around in the cool, damp earth for those elusive potatoes.

My grandma would cook the tiniest potatoes for my brother and I as an afternoon snack. Doused in just soy sauce and perhaps a tiny drizzle of vegetable oil. The Tabasco sauce was something I added when I was older. So I eat for the memory I guess and it’s a potent one for me.

Individual food preferences are something I usually remember. I can still recall a colleague’s dislike of mandarins and cucumbers, yet intense love for fresh figs. It’s been about 10 years since we’ve worked together and when I think of him, it’s his food preferences that leap first to my mind. Not his slow cowboy swagger or machine gun laugh.

People often say “Oh I eat everything!” but it’s not true, really. I had friends over for dinner on Saturday night, including my friend Tin Kan and her partner. I’d heard Mr Kan can devour a mountain. So I took the fail safe option, making copious amounts of food and hoped for the best.

The meal was served tapas style so everyone could help themselves. I slightly over-catered and had spent half the day with preparation. That evening we ate;

  • Meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce
  • Roasted lamb cutlets
  • Sticky grilled quail
  • Homemade flatbreads
  • Fennel, snowpea and celery salad
  • Black-eyed pea salad
  • Flourless hazelnut brownies
  • Dairy-free chocolate gelato
  • A single peanut and honey cookie, shared

Perhaps a bit much for only four people but I wanted to make sure everyone was satisfied. Hopefully no one ever leaves my place hungry. I quickly realised Mr Kan doesn’t seem to eat game meats as he avoided the platter of quail in front of him. I’m just glad he did enjoy these baked meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce which aren’t exciting but very reliable.

To add flavour to one-note tomato passata, I stirred in maple syrup and a big dollop of fresh chilli sauce.

Feeds: 3-4 people
Start cooking: 1 and a half hours before eating

Meatballs in spicy tomato sauce

  • 300 grams x pork mince
  • 300 grams x veal mince (can replace with beef if unavailable)
  • 400ml x tomato passata
  • 2 tablespoons x fresh chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon x maple syrup
  • 2 x shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon x sea salt
  • 1 x onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet x cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Flatbread to serve
  1. Mix pork and veal mince together with chopped garlic, chopped shallots, salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Place meatball mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up and marinate.
  3. In a jug, mix tomato passata, maple syrup and chilli sauce.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.
  5. Lightly oil a large ceramic baking dish with a teaspoon of olive oil. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place in baking dish with the onions.
  6. Take the meatball mixture out of the fridge. Roll into even balls and place around the tomato and onion.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Meatballs will be sizzling and the tomatoes just beginning to collapse.
  8. Pour the tomato sauce around the meatballs and continue to cook for another 20 minutes until sauce is bubbling and the edges of the sauce are turning brown.
  9. Serve with plenty of flatbread to mop up the sauce and wrap the meatballs in if desired.