Meatballs are a perennial favourite in this house. Team them with pasta and a rich tomato sauce and I’m everybody’s best friend. The reality is that making meatballs from scratch can be quite time-consuming. Not exactly practical for a quick dinner during a busy week. Here is my fabulous cheat. Buy the best quality Italian pork and fennel sausages you can find. And simply squeeze little walnut sized balls of sausage meat out of the casings and into a home-made tomato sauce. I’m pretty sure I borrowed the idea from one of Jamie Oliver’s cooking shows when my children were very young. I cook this a lot and have never had a single complaint. So it must be good. You could brown the meatballs first but that’s just another step that is easily eliminated when the clock is ticking and I need to get dinner on the table. Pronto.
Penne with Little Italian Sausage Meatballs and a Home-made Tomato Sauce.
400 gm box of dried pasta, I like to use penne, rigatoni or casarecce
500 grams good quality Italian pork and fennel sausages
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-3 teaspoons crushed chilli flakes
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs, I like to use a combination of parsley, oregano and basil
A good pinch of sugar
A dash of balsamic vinegar
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to season
chopped herbs, to garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmesan to serve
IN A large shallow frying pan over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent. About 5 minutes
ADD garlic and crushed chilli flakes. Sauté until fragrant.
STIR in the canned tomatoes and cook until the sauce begins to thicken a little. Break down the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon as you stir.
ADD herbs,balsamic vinegar and sugar. Stir well to combine. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the sauce is rich and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
MEANWHILE cook pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water according to the instructions on the back of the box until al dente.
SQUEEZE walnut sized balls of sausage meat out of their casings directly into the pan of simmering sauce. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until meatballs are cooked through. If the sauce becomes a little too thick, loosen with a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water.
DRAIN the cooked pasta and toss through the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs and grated Parmesan cheese to serve.