Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

The Messy Meatball Appreciation Society…

I fired up a batch of home-made meat balls at the weekend and to the ball, they disappeared without a trace.

I tell a lie: The trace was all over the face of the littlest human in the house, that being the tomato sauce the balls were finished in. There was even spaghetti in her hair!

It would be nice to be such an age again, where it’s socially acceptable to have pasta intertwined in one’s hair. When I tackled Anna about her errant eating process and pointed out there was a large strand of spaghetti in one of her pig-tails, she looked at me as if I was the one in the wrong. She scowled and said, “So what, daddy?”


That was me told.

Still, the big upside was that, as the meat balls were a new addition to this littlest human’s palate, I was only too glad they were appreciated. The messiness undoubtedly aided and abetted the meatball appreciation.

I knew I was onto a winner too when Anna returned to the kitchen later that evening and asked if there were any meatballs left. Unfortunately there weren’t but I suggested we would have them again, very soon.

“Maybe we’ll start a new club,” I told her. “The Messy Meatball Appreciation Society.” But this time she merely frowned, as if the pater familias was a meatball short of a meal.

Over the years, I’ve made meatballs out of various meats, beef, veal, pork and for one memorable meal, out of all three combined. Alas, Herself isn’t overly find of veal so that one was scratched from the repertoire.

On another occasion, I fashioned a meal exclusively from veal meatballs, without divulging the origin of the meat. After a frown, I believe I was let off the hook pretty lightly on that occasion. I think the term is a fool’s pardon.


However, I think I’ve redeemed myself with these meatballs (in Anna’s eyes and hair, anyway), and the best thing about them is: They’re deceptively easy. And, if you were off a mind, you could even get the little humans to help out when it comes to the rolling of the meatballs.


Share the labour, that’s what I always say. ALSO, there’s a special ingredient in here. See if you can spot it.

500g of pork mince
six rich tea biscuits, smashed into crumbs.
small handful of grated parmesan
good pinch of dried sage
1 apple (I used braeburn), coarsely grated
one onion, super-finely chopped (so the little humans don’t notice them)
1 free range egg, beaten
salt and black pepper
2 tbsps of olive oil
1 garlic glove, grated
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
good pinch of oregano
half tsp of honey
pasta shape of your choice and more parmesan to serve

Start by making your meatballs.
In a large bowl, add the mince, bashed up rich tea biscuits, small handful of parmesan, sage, apple, onion, egg and seasoning and mix well until completely combined. It’s a little messy, but it’s better if you use your hands.
That done (and this is when you can get the little humans to help), take small handfuls of the mixture and roll into balls. Something a little smaller than a golf ball works, but if the little humans are helping, the shapes and sizes are likely to be haphazard. Retire these to the fridge to firm up a little.
Next, get the tomato sauce on the go. Add one tbsp of oil to a cold saucepan with the garlic and stir fry for about 30 seconds (you don’t want the garlic to burn). Dump in the tomatoes, honey and oregano with another touch of seasoning and bring to a gentle simmer.
Add the other tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan and on a high heat, brown all the meatballs until they’re coloured all around. This should only take a minute or two.
That done, remove the meatballs to the tomato sauce. Stick a lid on and simmer gently for another ten to 15 minutes or so until the sauce has thickened slightly and the meat balls are cooked through. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.
Serve up with the pasta of your choice and lots and lots of parmesan. Garlic bread is optional unless you’re Anna. For her, it’s essential. And I can hear her now, “So what, daddy?”

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