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Day 13: Big Girl Meatballs vs. The Little Girl Kind

With this challenge, it’s nice to know I can be resourceful when I have to be, but I’m still haunted by thoughts of foie gras and Kumamoto oysters. A friend recently asked for my veal meatballs recipe. After typing it up, I could think of nothing else I wanted more. I can dream of the good old days; however, with my £10 weekly budget, I had to create a slimmed down version. What I came up with sort of reminds me of what you make when you first learn to cook, but it’s still just as tasty as a grown up dish. Pick the Big Girl version if you’ve got the whole day to pretend you’re an Italian granny. Pick the Little Girl one (pictured) for those nights when you can’t be arsed.

Big Girl Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

3-4 strips of pancetta, diced
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 container of mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
2 birdseye chillies, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
2 cans of diced tomatoes**
1 small carton of passata
1 Tbsp of honey
A few glugs of red wine
A generous knob of butter

In a large pot, fry the pancetta until crispy. Add the garlic and onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until tender. Add all the dried herbs, chili, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Stir and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, passata, honey, and wine. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to low heat. Simmer for no less than 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from sticking or burning. The longer this sauce simmers, the better. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper if necessary, and the butter to finish it off.

500 g of veal mince
1 container of ricotta cheese, drained
A generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg
4 dried birdseye chillies, crumbled
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Combine all the ingredients (up to the flour) and mix by hand in a large bowl. You want the ingredients to be well combined, but be careful not to overwork or the meatballs will be too dense. Roll the mixture into balls (whatever size you like). Place a bit of flour in a bowl and roll each meatball around so it’s evenly coated. Heat a pan with oil, and gently fry the meatballs. You don’t need to cook them through, just brown the outside. Transfer them directly to the sauce and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Serve with pasta!

**When tomatoes are in season, you can sub 15-20 fresh plum tomatoes for the canned variety. Boil and remove the skins before throwing them in the sauce.

Little Girl Spaghetti and Meatballs

1 Tbsp of olive oil
12 cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
1/2 tsp of dried red chillies
salt and pepper
1 carton of passata
1 can of diced tomatoes
a few glugs of red wine
1 Tbsp of honey
1 knob of butter

1 package of pork sausages
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp of dried chillies

Remove the sausages from their casing and season with rosemary, salt, pepper, and chillies. Reform the pork into small meatballs.

Saute the garlic and shallot in a large pot with olive oil. Add meatballs and fry for another 5-6 minutes or until they are brown. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients up to the butter. Bring up to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until ready to serve. A few minutes before serving, check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Add in the butter and stir until melted. If you really want a kid version, top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.


  1. The Grubworm

    Okay, so it's 8:53am and already I want something meaty… I love the idea of using honey in the sauce, it's something I had never thought of doing with a meatball + tommie recipe and it would really add a bit of swwet depth (more so than the brown sugar i had alwasy used when I felt a tomato sauce need some sweetness).

    It's great what a few constrictions (financial/space etc) can do for creativity. I love the look of both versions and intent to try out the Big Girl ones with some Ginger Pig beef mince as soon as i can get myself down to Borough or Vicky Pk.

    Great recipe – do you think it could use some cinnamon 😉

  2. Jen

    Thanks, Grubworm, and love your blog. Without pasta, the big girl meatballs make a great starter if you are having a dinner party. I make big, fat, snowball size ones and top with Parmesan. Mmmm.

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