How to make meatballs

Classic meatballs are delicious and easy to make, providing the perfect accompaniment to pasta, potatoes and grains.

Meatball recipes can be found in many different cuisines, ranging from rich and herby Italian versions to sweet and comforting Swedish varieties.

A basic meatball recipe combines fresh minced meat (beef, pork, lamb or chicken are ideal), finely chopped onion, beaten egg, herbs and seasoning. The meatballs are usually fried gently in a pan with oil, covered with a rich sauce and then served with an accompaniment, such as pasta.

See the How to cook meatballs video

Classic meatballs in tomato sauce

Serves 4 (4 meatballs per person)

7 tbsp olive oil

1 medium sized onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

400g (13oz) minced beef

200g (7 1/2oz) minced pork

1 tsp dried oregano

1 egg, beaten

1 medium onion, chopped finely

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 x 400g (13oz) chopped tomatoes 

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp sugar


freshly ground black pepper

pinch of chilli flakes, optional

basil leaves, optional

meatballs step 1Step 1: 

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy based sauté pan over a gentle heat. Add to the pan 1 medium sized finely chopped onion and 1 crushed garlic clove. Cook for between 2-3 minutes, until soft and a little golden and then take off the heat and allow to cool. Then in a large bowl add 600g of minced meat. You can use either beef or pork depending on your preference, mix in your cold sweated onion and garlic then add 1 tsp of dried oregano and 1 beaten egg. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Now, this where you need to get in with your hands and mix well . Just roll the mixture into balls between the palms of your hands, about the size of a golf ball, then place on a baking tray. You should make around 16. Don’t forget to wash your hands.

meatballs step 2Step 2: 

To make the tomato sauce heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Then add 1 finely chopped onion and 1 crushed garlic clove, cook for 3-4 minutes over a gentle heat until soft. Add two 400g cans of chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp of tomato puree, 1 tsp of sugar, a pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper and if you want to spice it up, some chilli flakes. Stir together well then cook uncovered for approximately 30 minutes.

meatballs step 3Step 3:

While the sauce cooks heat the 3 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan – you can use the same pan you sautéed your onions and garlic in earlier. Add your meatballs over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until browned all over. It’s best not over fill the sauté pan – so a good idea is to cook meatballs in batches. Remember if your meatballs are larger than golf balls they will take longer to cook.

meatballs step 4Step 4: 

When browned, transfer to the tomato sauce and allow to simmer gently for 10-15 mins while you prepare your pasta. Cook your pasta as per the instructions on pack. Then all that’s left to do is to spoon the meatballs (and tomato sauce) over the pasta and top with a generous sprig of fresh basil.


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