Melissa Hemsley’s mamma mia meatballs recipe

There is so much variety when it comes to pasta these days. You could serve this with quinoa spaghetti, buckwheat pasta or mung bean noodles, for instance. It would also work well with spiralised raw courgettes or celeriac. The grated carrots add sweetness to the meatballs, sneaking in some extra veg while helping the meat to go a bit further. The meatballs freeze well, so why not make a double batch and freeze half raw? As both the meatballs and sauce use onions and garlic, you effectively save a step by frying it all up to begin with.

Issy Croker


2½ tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
1 large onion, finely chopped (see time saver below)
4 garlic cloves,
finely chopped
1 large carrot, roughly grated
1 medium egg
500g minced beef, or any meat
1 tbsp dried oregano
½ tsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
sea salt and black pepper


1 large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan

1. Melt 1½ tablespoons of butter in a large pan, add the onion and fry over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute.
2. Meanwhile, place the carrot in a large bowl, add the egg, beef, oregano, chilli flakes and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. At this point, add half the fried onion and garlic mixture to the bowl.
3. To make the tomato sauce, add the tomato purée to the remaining onion/garlic mixture in the pan. Tip in the tinned tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave the sauce to simmer over a medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes to thicken and reduce.
4. Meanwhile, combine the meat mixture and, with damp hands, form into 24 bite-sized meatballs. (An easy way to do this is to split the mixture into four and then divide each piece into six.)
5 Melt the remaining butter in a large frying pan, add the meatballs and fry on a medium-high heat for 6 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through, until browned all over.
6 Tip the meatballs into the tomato sauce pan and simmer, covered with a lid, on a medium heat for 10 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through. Use this time to make your choice of pasta or noodles then toss everything together and serve with basil leaves and let everyone help themselves to Parmesan.

To save time, simply whiz up the onion and garlic in a food processor.


Eat Happy: 30-Minute Feelgood Food by Melissa Hemsley is published by Ebury, price £20. As well as Melissa’s introduction and brilliant advice and tips for time-savvy, good-for-you meals, chapters cover breakfast and brunch, bowl food, meat, fish and vegetable mains, salads, sides, snacks, dips and canapés, sweets and drinks. To order a copy for £16 until 18 February, visit or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.