Maeve Madden’s healthy meatball recipe

Meatballs! Just like-a mama use to make… well, not quite. With a few sneaky substitutes you can change this Italian classic into a healthy favourite that will help keep you looking like Sophia Loren, not Tony Soprano.

Claire Pepper and Tamin Jones


350g lean high-quality beef mince
1 garlic clove, crushed
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 dessertspoon tomato puree
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, beaten
60g mozzarella
30g Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve (optional)

60g unsmoked back bacon, fat removed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 dessertspoon cornflour
250ml vegetable stock
2 tomatoes, chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves, plus extra to serve (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
300g cauliflower rice or 200g cooked spelt pasta, to serve

1. Thoroughly mix all the meatball ingredients together in a bowl, apart from the mozzarella and Parmesan. Using clean, wet hands, roll the meatballs, incorporating a piece of mozzarella in the centre of each and place them in an ovenproof dish. Cover with clingfilm and set aside in the fridge until the sauce is ready.
2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
3. To make the sauce, fry the bacon in a saucepan over a medium heat until golden brown. Add the onion and the garlic and cook for 1–2 minutes without browning. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflour. Add the stock, then the fresh and canned tomatoes and return to the hob. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time, and cook until the sauce thickens. Finally, stir in the basil and remove the pan from the heat.
4. Take the meatballs out of the fridge and remove the clingfilm, then pour over the sauce and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes.
5. Serve with cauliflower rice or spelt pasta and a few basil leaves and sprinkle of grated Parmesan, if you wish.

Recipe extracted from Beat Your Bloat by Maeve Madden is published by Kyle Books, £14.99 (