Cassoulet-style Smoky Bacon Meatballs

, from Issue #109. May, 2023
Photography by Olivia Galletly.
Cassoulet-style Smoky Bacon Meatballs

A hearty and comforting dish for those cooler nights, a nod to the traditional cassoulet with a rich tomato sauce and cannellini beans. I like to serve it with green beans and a loaf of crusty bread.

Serves: 4-5


Rich Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
20 grams butter
1 brown onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, stalks discarded
400-gram tin finely chopped tomatoes or passata
1 cup chicken stock
390-gram tin cannellini beans, drained
2 teaspoons brown sugar
sea salt and cracked pepper

3 pieces of bread, crust removed
250 grams streaky bacon, roughly chopped
½ red onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
350 grams pork mince
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs (parsley, sage, oregano)
sea salt and cracked pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, for frying

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices bread, blitz to breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley


Heat the oven to 180°C regular bake.  

Rich Tomato Sauce: Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy-based casserole dish. Add the onions, celery and carrot and gently sauté until softened. Add the garlic and fresh herbs and fry briefly for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Once thickened, add the cannellini beans, sugar and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce begins to dry out, add a little water. 

Meatballs: While the sauce is cooking, make the meatballs. Put the slices of bread in a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb then transfer to a large bowl. Add the roughly chopped bacon to the food processor and process until finely chopped. Put the bacon into the bowl along with the remaining ingredients, except the oil. Mix until well combined then roll into golf ball-sized balls.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Brown the meatballs in batches until golden brown.  

Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

Breadcrumbs: Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan, add the breadcrumbs and fry until golden and crispy. Toss through the parsley then sprinkle over the meatballs and return to the oven for a few minutes.