An American-Italian classic dish meatballs with spaghetti is perfect for baby-led weaning. Italian writers often mock the dish as pseudo-Italian or non-Italian - meatballs are uncommon and smaller in Italy. I cook my meatballs in the oven and then add them to the sauce, this way I know they are cooked through, they don’t fall apart whilst cooking in the sauce and the sauce can cook at a lower temperature which is far better when cooking tomatoes. This is a perfect messy first baby led weaning meal – babies quickly learn to suck up the spaghetti very much lady and the tramp style! The meatballs can be made from mince pork, beef or a mixture of both.
Makes enough for 3 grown-ups and a little one
For the meatballs
500g mince beef, pork or a mixture of both
1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary finely choppped
1 tbsp oregano
30g grated cheese
1 crushed garlic cloves
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 onion grated
2 ½ tbsp breadcrumbs
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp olive oil for frying
For the sauce
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tins (2x400g) of plum tomatoes
1 whole red chilli pierced a few times with a knife
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp olive oil
1. Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl – work the mixture reasonably well and then make balls that are a little larger than golf balls. It should make around 12 balls.
2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat and carefully cook the outside of the meatballs. Place the meatballs on a baking tray in a preheated 200C fan oven for 20-25 mins until cooked through.
3. To make the sauce – heat oil and gently fry the garlic and whole chilli for 30 seconds, do not burn the garlic: the garlic should now change colour. Add the plum tomatoes and cook on a low medium heat for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally – it should bubble slightly while cooking.
4. Using a wooden spoon break up the tomatoes to small chunks. Add the chopped basil and stir through. Remove the chilli and discard.
5. Once the meatballs are cooked add to the tomato sauce and stir through.
This is a perfect messy first baby led weaning meal – babies quickly learn to suck up the spaghetti very much lady and the tramp style! The meatballs can be formed (but not cooked) the day before and kept in the fridge or a month before and kept in the freezer. Likewise the cooked meatballs and sauce can be frozen (separately) for a month – to cook, defrost completely then pop the balls in the sauce and heat through on the hob.
Italian writers often mock the dish as pseudo-Italian or non-Italian - meatballs are uncommon and smaller in Italy.