There’s something about meatballs in a thick and hearty sauce that makes a the cold and rain of a chilly winter’s day feel like perfect weather. For years I’ve been making a traditional Italian style meatballs in tomato sauce that goes perfectly with spaghetti. I decided to mix it up a bit this winter and make a sweet and sour version. I get a little worried when introducing change into family favorites, but this one went down a treat.
When you have a family like mine that likes to eat, especially my son who’s an athlete and needs his protein, you’ll want to make this recipe with about 1.5 kg of ground beef at least. Don’t be shy! They reheat very easily and well, if there are any leftovers.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic crushed
1 800g (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes (you can also use whole peeled tomatoes and crush them yourself)
2 cups of beef or chicken broth
½ cup brown sugar
Juice of half a small lemon (about 1 tablespoon or so)
1kg (2 lb) fresh ground beef
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons ketchup
½ teaspoon meat spice (preferably BBQ flavor)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and ground black pepper
About ½ cup of bread crumbs (preferably freshly made)
How to do it
- Prepare the sauce by heating the olive oil in a large pot. Saute the onions until they are soft (they will just start to color, don’t brown them). Add the crushed garlic and stir around in the pot for a few seconds until they just start to get some color (do not let them brown otherwise they will burn). Add the tomatoes, sugar, lemon and seasoning. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer uncovered for a few minutes. Turn the sauce off while you prepare the meatballs.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg, add the spices and ketchup, and mix together. Add the ground beef and mix well until combined. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Check to see that you have a consistency that allows you to shape a ball that retains its shape. If the meat mixture is too soft, add some more breadcrumbs, but don’t make the mixture too dry or your meatballs will be dry.
- Bring the sauce to the boil. Make small golf-ball sized meatballs (I use a heaped tablespoon to give me a consistent amount of meat per ball) and drop them carefully into the sauce. Shake the pot occasionally to ensure the meatballs are all covered with sauce. If you find that there isn’t enough sauce, then top up the pot with a little more stock, making sure you don’t add too much so as not to dilute the flavor.
- When all the meatballs are in the pot, turn the heat down low, cover the pot and allow the meatballs to simmer for about an hour.
This makes about 20-25 meatballs.
Serve with brown or white rice.