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Italian meatballs in tomato sauce

Italian meatballs in tomato sauce

This is a real crowd-pleaser that an Italian lady taught me to make when I was au-pairing in Rome.  Rather then being fried, the meatballs are actually cooked in the tomato sauce.  You really need lean meat for this, otherwise you will have to skim off any visible fat floating on the top before adding the basil and serving.

If you would like to reduce the quantity of meat in the recipe, substitute cooked puy lentils for some of the meat.

(For 5-6 big eaters)
For the meatballs:
350g lean beef mince, organic if possible
350g lean lamb mince (or use extra beef mince if you prefer)
2 tbs freshly grated parmesan (if avoiding dairy, use 100% wholemeal gluten-free breadcrumbs instead of the cheese.  If you eat gluten, normal brown crumbs are OK)
1 heaped tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A few good grinds of black pepper
1 organic egg, beaten
A pinch of himalayan or Atlantic sea salt

For the sauce:
1 litre passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 onion, peeled and halved.
1 dsp extra virgin olive oil
Small bunch fresh basil, rinsed, if you have it.

1. In a bowl combine all the meatball ingredients and mix well – the quickest way to do this is with your hands.
2. Shape into balls about ¾” in diameter and place in a single layer on a plate in the fridge to solidify for at least ½ hour if possible.
3. To make the tomato sauce combine the passata, the peeled halved onion and olive oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan or deep frying pan, bring to the boil, then simmer until the onion is translucent – usually about 20 minutes.  This sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance if you wish.
4. To cook the meatballs, bring the tomato sauce up to the boil in your wide bottomed saucepan or frying pan, then gently slide the meatballs in so they form a single layer.  Do not stir (or you will break up the meatballs), just shake gently if necessary to distribute the meatballs in a single layer.
5. Cook on a medium heat for around 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.
6. Remove the stalks from the basil, tear up roughly  and add to the pan.  Serve in warmed soup plates.

Serve with:
A large salad of green leaves and radicchio, cucumber and thinly sliced red onions and (if you are especially hungry) a good 100% rye or wholewheat bread warmed gently in the oven to mop up the sauce.

Why this is good for you:
Cooking meat at low temperature in the sauce avoids the production of the harmful oxidation products.  Oxidation by products from charring food cause free radical damage, linked to digestive and skin problems, inflammation and premature ageing.   Tomato sauce is very rich in lycopene, a potent anti ageing, anti-inflammatory antioxidant.   Red meat is a good source of iron so for most people it’s useful to eat once or twice a week.