To save time make the meatballs in tomato sauce the day before and just heat them up while cooking the pasta. After frying, you will have some tasty oil with meaty bits in the saucepan. For a delicious side dish, sauté some (just) par-boiled spinach or potatoes in the leftover oil until they have soaked up the flavour.
For the meatballs:
* 40–50g soft crustless white bread, torn into chunks
* 80ml milk
* 400g minced pork and beef
* 2 tbsps chopped flat-leaf parsley
* ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
* ½ teaspoon ground cumin
* ½ teaspoon salt
* ½ small red onion
* about 80 ml light olive oil, for frying
For the sauce:
* 2 tbsps olive oil
* 2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed a bit
* 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
* 3–4 basil leaves, torn
* 250ml water
* 350g spaghetti
* 30g butter
* grated parmesan cheese, to serve
1. For the meatballs, soak the bread in the milk in a small bowl, squishing it through your fingers so that it breaks up completely.
2. Put the mince in a large bowl with the parsley, cinnamon, cumin, the bread mixture and the salt. Grate in the onion (it is easier to do this holding the whole onion and then keeping the unused half for another time). Mix everything together thoroughly, kneading it with your hands as though it were a bread dough.
3. Form about 25 small meatballs the size of large cherry tomatoes, rolling them between your palms so they are compact and smooth. Place on a plate while you finish rolling the rest. Depending on their age, kids might like to help with the rolling.
4. Heat the light olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches, making sure they are golden before turning them. You should be able to shuffle them by holding the handle of the pan and giving a good flick with your wrist. If not, use tongs to turn them.
5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan big enough to eventually hold the meatballs. Add the garlic cloves and, when you can smell them, add the tomatoes. Season with salt, add the basil and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon as you stir from time to time.
6. When all the meatballs have been fried, add them to the tomato sauce and stir in just under 250ml of water. Simmer uncovered for another 20–25 minutes, adding another splash of water if needed, until the meatballs are soft and there is a fair amount of thickened sauce to toss into your pasta. Taste for salt, adjusting if necessary.
7. Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water, following the packet instructions. Drain, return to the cooking pot and gently but thoroughly toss the butter through. Serve the pasta in individual bowls with a good ladleful of the tomato sauce, a few meatballs and a scattering of parmesan on top.
More from The Recipe Collection:
The Recipe Collection by Tessa Kiros (Murdoch Books £20). Photography: Manos Chatzikonstantis