Spaghetti meatballs with tomatoes, chilli and basil

At the moment I’m finding it really difficult to make time for photographing food. My new cookbook is now in the final stretch of design before it goes off to print (whoooooop!!) and juggling work and small boys (who are on school holidays, might I add…) is proving challenging, to say the least. But every time I do manage to get out a recipe AND a photograph, it does feel most rewarding.
This is one of my favourite winter comfort foods: Italian-style meatballs in a homemade tomato, chilli and basil sauce on linguine with lashings of fresh Parmesan. (I like to use a mix of fresh and canned tomatoes, as I find the tinned tomatoes add ‘juiciness’). It’s definitely worth the bit of effort required.

Meatball pasta with tomatoes, chilli and basil

500g linguine or spaghetti
extra virgin olive oil, to serving
freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Meatballs:
2T olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1t coriander seeds, crushed
800g lean beef mince, preferably topside
1 handful parsley, finely chopped
1 free-range egg, beaten
sea salt and ground black pepper
oil, for frying

Tomato Sauce:
2T olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
5 ripe plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can whole, peeled tomatoes
1 handful basil, finely chopped
1t sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the meatballs: sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes. Tip into a mixing bowl and mix in the remaining meatball ingredients. Roll balls of meat, to the desired size, in the palms of your hands. (I prefer smaller meatballs for pasta as this yields more per portion, and bite-sized balls make it easier to eat – you’re already challenged by the spaghetti!). Fry in batches until golden and cooked through.Set aside.
For the tomato sauce: sauté the onion, chill and garlic in olive oil until the onion is translucent but not yet browned. Add the fresh and canned tomatoes and leave to simmer away on a very low heat while you cook the pasta (cook according to packet instructions).
Once the tomatoes have broken down nicely, add the sugar and basil and season to taste.
Tip the meatballs into the tomato sauce and heat through.
To serve, place a twirl of spaghetti or linguine into individual bowls or on a platter and top with the meatballs in tomato sauce.
Serve with loads of Parmesan and extra virgin olive oil for drizzling.

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