Francesca Rangoni

Tomato sauce meatballs

Francesca Rangoni
Tomato sauce meatballs

These polpette are a crowd pleaser that goes down well with children and adults alike. The meatballs (polpette) are small and soft and the tomato sauce takes on the delicious juices of the meat.

This quantity makes a good meal for 4 with rice or mashed potato. I love this with a deep green vegetable such as broccoli or cavolo nero. Frying the meatballs is a tiny bit fiddly if you increase the quantities, but if you can bear it, then this is perfect for freezing or to use for packed lunches.


·       500 g mince meat
·       1 clove of garlic, squeezed
·       2 slices of bread - soaked in milk
·       2 eggs

for the tomato sauce
·       2 cloves of garlic, cut into small pieces
·       2 tins of chopped tomato


Make the tomato sauce
Use a pan that will be able to hold the meatballs once you add them to the sauce.
See my tomato sauce recipe for more comprehensive instructions, but essentially: heat a clove of garlic in some oil - add the chopped tomatoes and when it has reduced slightly, add some water to lengthen the sauce. I like to whizz it up with a hand blender to make a it a more liquid sauce.

Put all ingredients in a large bowl
Place the mince in a large bowl, squeeze the garlic in a garlic press and add to the mince. Squeeze the bread slices to get rid of as much milk as possible and add to the mixture. Add the eggs and a pinch of salt.

Mix it all up
Nothing quite like your (clean) hands to mix everything up into a homogeneous mixture. Let the cool gooey mixture ooze through your fingers as you massage all the bits of bread and amalgamate the eggs into the mince.

Make little balls
Roll the mixture between your palms into little ping pong sized balls. Place them on a board covered in flour and roll them around, adding more flour when necessary, to cover the balls completely.

Fry the meatballs
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and add the flour-covered meatballs. Do not overfill it - there should be enough space in the pan for the balls to roll around a bit. Shake the pan to allow the balls to roll and gradually cook on all sides. If they are not cooking enough on one side then gently turn them over. They don’t need to be cooked thoroughly inside as they will continue to cook in the tomato sauce, but they should be sealed all around if possible. You will have to cook these in a few batches.

Add to the tomato sauce
Add the sealed meatballs to the sauce as they become ready. Let the sauce with the meatballs simmer gently for another 5 minutes or so get all the flavours to amalgamate nicely. Serve with rice, mashed potato and some lovely green vegetables.