Veal Meatballs with Rich Tomato Sauce

Though this recipe uses Veal, obviously other minced meats can be used, they may however require a change in the seasoning and herb content. This recipe is, I think, a wonderfully delicious use of an undervalued meat, the use of Veal gives a lovely delicate balance to the meal.


Several people (other than vegetarians) have ethical issues with Veal, however, in Britain, the majority of Veal is now known as "Pink" which denotes the animal had a good quality of life and was up to a year old prior to slaughter. I think this is common throughout most of Europe now with only the rare exception – in fact when we lived in France the local farmer demolished all of his Veal pens and converted to "Pink" Veal. I have tried to maintain an Italian influence within this recipe by using a lot of my own dried Sage leaves, however, if you don't have dried, fresh will be just as good.

I think this meal lends itself to being served with Tagliatelle (home made would be so impressive).



Between 400 to 500 Grams (14.1 to 17.5 Oz) of Minced Veal,
1 finely chopped medium onion or 2 large Shallots (I use my own Shallots),
1 clove of Elephant Garlic, or 2 cloves of ordinary Garlic (see fig 1 for shallots and Garlic),
1 Medium to large Carrot, finely chopped,
1 Medium stick of Celery, finely chopped,
½ a green Bell Pepper, finely chopped,
1 Large Egg,
1 400 gram tin of chopped Tomatoes (good quality, please don't skimp on this)
A tablespoon of Tomato Purée or Paste, more if desired,
A good amount/bunch (to taste)of Italian style herbs such as Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Basil, Sage, but predominantly Sage (you can use a Bay leaf in the sauce once blended),
Salt and Pepper to taste,
Red wine if desired,
Flour for dusting.



For the sauce you are going to start by making a Sofrito, this is the base for so many Italian sauces, to do this, put half the Onion, Garlic, all of the Carrot, Celery and Pepper into a pan with a good tablespoon of Olive Oil (fig 2). Stirring regularly, cook down until reaching the point of softness; once achieved, add just over half the herbs and the Tomato Purée, then allow to cook for a while, a teaspoon of granulated sugar added at this point will help the Purée to caramelise slightly. Then add the tin of Tomatoes (fig 3)and let the mix slowly bubble away on a low heat, with the occasional turn for about 10 minutes. A half cup of Red wine could be added at this point if desired.
Take the sauce off the heat, allow to cool then, using a processor or as I do, using a stick blender, blend the sauce until smooth (fig 4). At this point, you can season your sauce with Salt and ground black Pepper before putting it into a casserole or oven proof dish.


Meat Balls:

Having got the sauce on the way, you can turn your attention to the main attraction of the meal, the meat balls. You can make them any size you want, I tend to make mine slightly smaller than Tennis Balls – it's up to you really.

In a mixing bowl, place the minced Veal, the remainder of the Onion/Shallot, Garlic and herbs, add ½ tablespoon of Salt and Black Pepper and the egg.
Time to get your hands into the mix and give it a good stir round for at least 5 minutes to make sure everything is mixed together.

Dust a chopping board with flour, then wet your hands with either water or Oil and shape the meat balls to the size you desire – once done, roll them in flour (fig 5) before putting them in a frying pan to brown off (fig 6).
As the Veal balls brown off, you can place them into the ready prepared Casserole dish so keep it near by (fig 7).
Once you have transferred all of the meatballs, put in the Bay leaf if desired (Fig 8) put the lid on your dish and place in a preheated oven (180 C)(356 F) for 30 to 40 minutes, then remove the lid, sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, it should come out looking delicious and ready to serve (Fig 9).


As you rest the Meat Balls, cook your Tagliatelle, once cooked,I would recommend you serve immediately with the sauce and meatballs drizzled over the Pasta and accompanied by a good bottle of Italian Red wine (plus fresh grated Parmesan on the table too of course); enjoy!

As I have said, this recipe, with some adjustment to herbs, will serve you well with any meat, even venison or wild boar- might want to add a little red wine if using either of those meats though.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3
Figure 4 Figure 5 Figure 6
Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9