Coming home after the holidays exhausted and with no food in the fridge, my freezer yet again stepped up to the mark. These are a take on a recipe by my old boss Thomasina Miers. They are a cinch to make and it's worth making double the amount so you can have emergency rations on ice. So good. And the brood thoroughly approved.
3 tbsp olive oil 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced 3 400g cans plum tomatoes, drained 2 bay leaves Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 tbsp capers, rinsed of brine or salt 1-2 pinches brown sugar (optional)
For the meatballs 600g minced pork 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 1 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped 60g fresh breadcrumbs Zest of 1 lemon 1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard 1 egg, beaten 1 tbsp olive oil 70g grated Parmesan
Make the tomato sauce first. Warm the oil in a deep pan on a medium-low heat, then gently fry the garlic just until it begins to colour at the edges. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, then stir in the bay leaves, season generously and leave to simmer gently for 25 minutes, whilst you make the meat balls. 15 minutes into the cooking, add the capers and taste the sauce – add a pinch or two of brown sugar, if you think it needs it, and a few tablespoons of water if the sauce looks too thick and dry. By the end, it should be thick and silky. You can cook it for longer, but I know most of us don't have extra time on our hands.
While the sauce is cooking, get on with the meatballs. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the oil and half the Parmesan, season generously, then mix with your hands until well amalgamated. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan,. Shape the meatball mix into eight balls (or more tiny ones if cooking for children) then, if you have time, refrigerate them for 20-30 minutes, to firm up.
Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Pour the remaining oil into the frying pan, heat over a medium-high flame, then lightly brown the meatballs on all sides. Transfer to a baking dish just large enough to hold them, pour on the sauce and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes, until firm to the touch.