Baked American-style meatballs in smoky tomato sauce

  • Serves 6
  • Hands-on time 55 min, simmering time 20 min, oven time 15 min
  • Medium
This American-inspired spicy meatball recipe is the perfect accompaniment to cooked polenta or fresh pasta.

Nutritional info per serving

  • Calories703kcals
  • Fat49.3g (19.1g saturated)
  • Protein45.4g protein
  • Carbohydrates19.5g (8.5g sugars)
  • Fibre2.5g
  • Salt2.3g
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[Total: 29 Average: 3.6]
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  • 5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli paste or chipotle-flavoured Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2 large fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 250ml beef stock
  • 200g British free-range rindless smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 800g good quality British beef mince
  • 75g day-old white breadcrumbs 
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano, plus extra to serve
  • 1 medium free-range egg, beaten
  • 200g buffalo mozzarella, coarsely grated or torn
  • 25g pecorino or parmesan, coarsely grated


  1. Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan, add the onions, garlic and oregano, cover and cook over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Turn off the heat, scoop half the mixture into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. Return the frying pan to a medium heat, add the tomato purée and balsamic vinegar, then stir well. Add the chopped tomatoes, chilli paste or Tabasco, sugar, thyme leaves, beef stock and a little seasoning, then bring to a gentle simmer.
  3. Put the bacon in a food processor and pulse briefly until finely chopped. Add the bacon to the cooled onions with the beef mince, breadcrumbs, fresh oregano, egg, ½ tsp salt and some black pepper. Mix using your hands, then roll into balls about the size of a golf ball (it will help if you oil your hands lightly before rolling).
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in another large frying pan and fry the meatballs in 2 batches until brown all over. Transfer to the simmering sauce using a slotted spoon, stir in and leave to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Leave to cool, then spoon into a freezer proof container. Seal and freeze until required (see make ahead).
  5. When ready to serve, remove the meatballs from the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge. Heat the oven to 240°C/fan220°C/gas 9. Spoon the meatballs and sauce into a shallow 2.5 litre baking dish, making sure the meatballs are well covered. Scatter over the grated cheeses, then bake for about 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Remove, scatter with extra chopped fresh oregano and serve with fresh crusty bread or hot garlic bread.
  • You can make the meatballs and sauce ahead until the end of step 4, then freeze for up to 3 months.
  • You want an American wine here – go for a rich, peppery Californian red zinfandel.

From November 2014

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  • "
    marierule16:39 Jul 14 2015

    I love this recipe because it is so indulgent and flavoursome.

  • "
    keithdaniels23:07 Jun 05 2015

    “I love this recipe because it is made from scratch, loads of fresh herbs, an amazing Italian sauce with a bit of a kick from the balsamic vinegar and chilli and it sits well with pasta or even on a pizza base for the kids, they love it.

  • "
    rebeccabrowne12:13 Jun 05 2015

    I love this recipe because…it’s delicious!! Makes a nice change from my usual meatballs. All the family love the spicy flavour and the addition of mozzarella gives it another dimension.

  • "
    rosiehansen17:49 May 12 2015

    Love this recipe – 5 stars every time!

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