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Tuscan Meatballs

Inspiration for recipes can come from all sorts of places and transport you to faraway locations. Or sometimes they come out of a need to be practical (and use what’s in the freezer). I’d bought some mince when it was reduced and when deciding what to do with it I was reminded me of a dish I haven’t had in years.

Despite the title today’s recipe doesn’t remind me of the time I spent in Tuscany with my Mum and sister a few years ago, rather it reminds me of Australia and a recipe I used to make there. The meatballs used a store-bought recipe base and it was also called Tuscan Meatballs.  I apologise to any Italians who might disagree that this is does not have true Tuscan flavours but that’s what it’s based on so I’ve copied the name.
I’m not sure if I’ve copied the taste – I remember distinct flavours of balsamic vinegar and rosemary so that’s what features in mine.

Making my own version mean that I don’t have to get Mum to send the recipe base in a care package (OK I wouldn’t really make her do that but I have a feeling I carried some back in my luggage once).

I’ve made it with both the cheaper 18% fat beef mince and the 5% fat beef mince, each work well but the 5% do seem to hold together better. It does have a very beefy taste, which we love, but if that’s not your thing than a blend of pork and beef would be nice. Depending on the size of your pan you will likely have to cook the meatballs in batches to avoid overcrowding. As I like the sauce and the meatballs to really pick up one another’s flavours I do everything in the same pan, taking turns – which also makes Jimmy happy as I have a habit of creating a lot of dirty dishes as I cook.

The meatballs are the kind of meal I’m able to cook as a midweek dinner, simply on top of spaghetti. But I do think they can also be made a little fancier if served with some crusty bread and a crisp side salad. And of course a glass of red wine! As I’m all about authenticity I recommend a Chianti. 🙂

Shout out to Rotorino, an Italian restaurant in East London, who gave us the beautiful plate in the picture when we asked for a doggy bag a few weeks ago.

TUSCAN MEATBALLS
Serves 4

Ingredients

vegetable oil
500g beef mince
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt
pepper
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2T tomato paste
4 t balsamic vinegar
1 t garlic powder
1/4 onion salt
Italian herb blend (mine was a great mix of oregano, red bell pepper, basil, bay leaves, sage and thyme)
1T rosemary (approx 1 sprig, chopped up)
230g spaghetti (ie. enough for 4 people)
Parmesan

Method

  1. Put mince, breadcrumbs and egg in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined. Using a teaspoon as a guide, measure out a portion and use wet hands to roll it into a ball.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Add meatballs, turning frequently so that they cook evenly.
  3. Whilst your meatballs are cooking combine tomato paste, garlic powder, balsamic vinegar, onion salt, rosemary and Italian herbs. Mix together.
  4. Once meatballs are cooked remove from the pan.
  5. Add the recipe base to the same pan to heat up. If any gets stuck in the bowl add a dash of water and throw that in the pan.
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes to the pan and do the same as above with the water to get out all the tomato goodness.
  7. Stir to combine and once warm add the meatballs back into the pan. As the meatballs are already cooked it is likely that you will be able fit them all in the same pan and it doesn’t matter if they are close together.
  8. Turn the heat down to a low so that they simmer away with the flavours combining. Season to taste.
  9. Cook spaghetti as per the packet instructions.
  10. Once spaghetti is cooked, drain and serve with the meatballs on top.
  11. Finish with some grated Parmesan on top.

Tips: A splash of red wine in the sauce or some chilli flakes sprinkled on top could be nice additions. As with lots of mince dishes, the meatballs and sauce tastes delicious (if not better) reheated the following day.

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