Meatballs are fantastic! They’re perfect like this, with a homemade tomato sauce and spaghetti, but you could also try them with rice, mashed potatoes, polenta, or simple chunks of fresh crusty bread. I like to make meatballs with a mixture of beef and pork, as I think it gives a really wonderful flavor and texture. – Jamie Oliver
2 large frying pans
For your meatballs
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
8 saltine crackers, preferably with unsalted tops
1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
1⁄2 pound good-quality lean ground beef, pork, or a mixture of the two
1⁄2 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
1 large egg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
For your sauce and pasta
A small bunch of fresh basil
1 medium onion
2 cloves of garlic
1⁄2 a fresh or dried red chile
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 x 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes 8 ounces (half a box) dried spaghetti or penne
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, for grating
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 teaspoon salt for water
To make your meatballs
1. Pick the rosemary leaves off the woody stalks and finely chop them.
2. Wrap the crackers in a kitchen towel and smash up until fine, breaking up any big bits with your hands. Add to a mixing bowl with the mustard, ground meat, chopped rosemary, and oregano.
3. Crack in the egg into a small bowl and beat it well. Add about half to the bowl along with a good pinch of pepper. With clean hands, scrunch and mix up well. Divide into 4 small balls. With wet hands, divide each ball into 3 and roll into little meatballs – you should end up with 12.
4. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil and jiggle them about so they all get coated. Put them on a plate, cover, and place in the refrigerator until needed.
To cook your pasta, meatballs, and sauce
5. Pick the basil leaves, keeping any smaller ones to one side for later. Peel and finely chop the onion and the garlic. Finely slice the chile.
6. Put a large pot of salted (1⁄2 teaspoon) water on to boil.
7. Next, heat a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a lug of olive oil. Add your onion to the frying pan and stir for around 7 minutes or until softened and lightly golden. Then add your garlic and chile, and as soon as they start to get some color add the large basil leaves. Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil and season to taste.
8. Meanwhile, heat another frying pan and add a lug of olive oil and your meatballs. Stir them around and cook for 8–10 minutes until golden (check they’re cooked by opening one up – there should be no sign of pink).
9. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer until the pasta is ready, then remove from the heat. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions.
To serve your spaghetti and meatballs
10. Saving some of the cooking water, drain the pasta in a colander. Return the pasta to the pot.
11. Spoon half the tomato sauce into the pasta, adding a little splash of your reserved water to loosen the sauce and help the sauce stick to the pasta.
12. Serve on a large platter, or in separate bowls, with the rest of the sauce and meatballs on top. Sprinkle over the small basil leaves and some grated Parmesan.
Jamie’s top tips
If you like a smooth sauce, just whiz the finished sauce with an immersion blender – you can use a regular blender instead, but give the sauce a chance to cool slightly before you do. Double the recipe and make 24 meatballs. Freeze 12 of them before or after browning them and you’ll have half the work done for your next spaghetti and meatball meal. Wet your hands before you start rolling you meatballs – this will stop the meat sticking to your hands and will make your life much easier!
A nice green salad would go nicely with this dish, try Garden salad with buttermilk dressing.
Tips from the dietitian:
This is a real family favorite; making them at home is great as you can control the sodium, fat and calories, unlike when you eat them in a restaurant. You can lower the sodium in this recipe by using low or ‘no salt added’ tomatoes. To lower the fat, try making your meatballs with lean turkey rather than beef.
Use whole wheat spaghetti to get some extra fiber into your diet – but remember the calories are the same as regular pasta so you’ll still need to watch your portion.
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before mixing the meatballs and after shaping them. Have the plate for the finished meatballs out on the counter before you start mixing the meatballs so you don’t have to reach for it with meaty hands.
Adapted from ‘Jamie’s Food Revolution’
Recipe © Jamie Oliver
Photography © David Loftus