Fennel and Lemon Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I made this for my housemates Simon and Jack, and honorary housemate Nancy, when I returned from being in Suffolk for a few weeks over Christmas. We ate it with bread and red wine. I got rather carried away, and garnished the dish with toasted pine nuts and sliced artichoke hearts – but heck, I thought they added a nice, if rather luxurious, dimension – especially the pine nuts. 

This made enough for 4 and enough leftovers for 2 lunches

Ingredients:

Meatballs

500g, pork mince

250g lean beef mince

150g lardons, pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped

large handful, breadcrumbs

2 onions, grated

1 tablespoon, fennel seeds bashed up a bit

zest ½ lemon, finely chopped

1 bunch oregano, leaves picked and chopped

several large pinches, salt

good grating of black pepper

Tomato Sauce:

2 tins, chopped tomatoes

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon, red wine vinegar

pinch of red chilli flakes

pinch of sugar

4 tablespoons, olive oil

salt

How I made it:

Mix all of the ingredients well, but do not overwork the meat or it will be hard and dry. Gently shape into balls around the size of golf balls. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a very large frying pan or other large pan. Cook all of the meatballs until caramelised on the outside. Do this in batches if necessary. Be gentle with them. When this is done remove and set aside. Scrape the pan and add the rest of the olive oil for the tomato sauce, add garlic and onions and cook on a lowish heat, until very soft. Add the chilli flakes, tomatoes, vinegar and sugar. Cook for 5 minutes or so. Check the seasoning and add salt as required. Re-add the meatballs to the pan in the tomato sauce and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, sliced artichokes (optional!).

Eaten with:

Warm ciabatta and a rocket salad with a zesty dressing (lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper, beaten together).

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