Roman Holiday Spaghetti Meatballs with Rich Tomato Sauce

. March, 2015
Photography by Sarah Tuck.
Roman Holiday Spaghetti Meatballs with Rich Tomato Sauce

These meatballs were inspired by a trip I took last year to San Francisco. We took a detour to Sonoma and fell in love with the beautiful town of Healdsburg. While there, we went to the super cool Scopa Restaurant for dinner and had the most amazing meatballs. So amazing that they keep popping back into my head, so I decided to make my own version. 

Serves: 8–10


1.2 kilogramss pork mince
600g beef mince
3 eggs, whisked
1 cup whole milk
200g (for me this was 8 slices) white toast bread, crusts removed
6 cloves garlic
½ cup grated Parmesan

300g ricotta
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
½ cup roughly chopped parsley

2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper
grated zest of a large lemon
150g firm mozzarella, chopped into 1cm cubes
¼ cup olive oil

cup grated Parmesan as extra
Tomato Sauce
2 x 400g tins pureed tomatoes
3 x 400g chopped tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon chilli flakes
500g dried spaghetti
⅓ cup finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
To serve: ½ cup grated Parmesan


Put the two minces in your biggest mixing bowl. Stir through the whisked eggs to loosen it up a bit. 

Put the milk and the roughly torn up bread in a food processor. Let it soak for a bit while you add the garlic, Parmesan, ricotta, chilli flakes, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and lemon. Pulse it all until the mixture is well chopped, squishy and combined. Fold the whole lot into your mince, then get in there with your hands to mix it really well together.

Get out at least two big baking trays and line them with baking paper. I used a medium ice cream scoop to guarantee even-sized balls for even cooking time. Scoop out a ball, poke a cube of mozzarella into it, then roll between your hands to make it firm and smooth. Repeat. You will end up with about 45 small balls (smaller than a tennis ball, bigger than a golf ball) which shrink a little during cooking. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour before cooking.

While they are chilling, place all the Tomato Sauce ingredients in a big pot. Bring to the boil then simmer for half an hour. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then either blend with a stick blender or in a food processor. Taste and check for seasoning. You can make this several days ahead and store in the fridge if you fancy.

Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F) and line two roasting dishes with baking paper. Distribute the balls between the two and brush very sparingly with a bit of olive oil. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes.

Pour half of the tomato sauce into a large oven-proof serving dish. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry meatballs over a medium heat for a few minutes (in batches), turning frequently to give them a nice crust and colour. As they come out of the pan, line them up on the tomato sauce in your serving dish. Half an hour before serving turn the oven down to 180˚C (350˚F), and bring a large pot of well salted water to the boil. 

Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the meatballs and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes to heat through. While they are heating cook the pasta, drain, drizzle with olive and stir through half of the parsley. Serve the meatballs with the spaghetti, sprinkled with the last of the parsley and seasoned with an extra good grinding of black pepper. I heated the last of the sauce and served it in a jug for 'top ups' with a side of grated Parmesan. 

If you want to make the meatballs the day before stop after the frying bit and refrigerate then continue with putting the sauce and meatballs together half an hour before serving and continue as above.