I love a good cook book, I am one of those people who will sit down with a cook book and a cup of tea and read for the pleasure of the food stories as well as to get recipe ideas. The Tamsin Day- Lewis book, Tamsin’s Kitchen Bible is one of my favorites. It is a great reference for jams, sauces, baking and meal ideas. Everything and anything can be found in this book. It is the closest thing I can get to my Mum’s Margaret Patton book which I think she got not long after she was married and which my family still refers back to. That book is tattered and marked from use and my copy of this Tamsin Day Lewis book is heading for a similar fate. The recipes are well laid out, easy to follow and I have yet to try one that hasn’t worked.
Here I have used two of her recipes, with a few minor changes, one for a truly lovely tomato sauce and the other for mozzarella stuffed meat balls. If you aren’t a fan of dairy these meatballs would be just as good without the mozzarella stuffing.
Pasta is a handy starting point for a casual dinner party. If I have a few friends coming over and I know it will a long evening of lingering over the wine I will always cook something that can be served in one big bowl so people can help themselves as they chat. That way I get to enjoy the wine and the company rather than being stuck in the kitchen preparing pretty plates of food. Pasta with any sauce, augmented with garlic bread or salad, served with a wedge of parmesan and wine always goes down well. You could also serve this as a romantic Lady and the Tramp style dinner for two and freeze the left over sauce.
- 1 475g or 500 gm pack of lamb mince
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- One good handful of parsley
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves – A good trick with thyme is to keep it in a bag in the freezer as this causes the laves to fall off the stems and you can just take what you need and pop the bag back in the freezer.
- 1 egg beaten.
- I ball of fresh mozarella, cut in to cubes.
- Pre heat and oven to Gas 5
If you have a food processor you can mince the the shallots, garlic and parsley together. As it cuts down on washing up I simply use my beloved micro plane to grate the shallot and garlic and then I finely chop the parsley. Place in a bowl and add the mince. Add the thyme leaves, salt and pepper and the beaten egg and use your hands to combine everything.
Take some of the mince in your hand, enough to make a ball just smaller than a ping pong ball. Press the meat into your palm and place a cube of mozzarella in to the centre and wrap the edges of the meat around the cheese. Roll the ball in your hand to make sure the cheese is covered by the mince.
You should get approximately 24 meat balls depending on the size.
Oil a baking sheet with some olive oil and place the meatballs, evenly spaced on the sheet. Put in to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Baking the meatballs browns the meat and gives a nice texture.
Tamsin Day Lewis recommends using fresh tomatoes in this sauce and if I have the time I do like to use them however more often than not I don’t have the time and so I have adjusted her recipe a bit to make up for this.
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 1 x 400 g / 14 oz tin of chopped tomatoes
- 500 g of pasatta
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 2 bay leaves
- A generous bunch of thyme, parsley and basil, chopped
- 2 teaspoons of dark brown sugar
- 150ml of red wine
- salt and pepper
- A knob of butter and a splash of olive oil.
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and sauté the onions, garlic and celery over a medium until softened but not browned. And the tinned tomato, pasatta and puree. Stir in the herbs and add the bay leaves, simmer for minute and then add the sugar. I had heard about adding sugar to tomatoes before to bring our the flavor but using dark brown sugar not only gives a great depth of flavor i also gives a lovely rich color to the sauce.
Simmer uncovered, storing occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken and then add the red wine, salt and pepper, stir. At this point I add the meatballs that have been baking in the oven for twenty minutes to the sauce and leave to simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. If the sauce starts to dry out add another splash of wine or pasatta. After 30 minutes add a good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to finish.
Cook your pasta. If cooking GF pasta, do use plenty of boiling water in as big a pot as you have. GF pasta tends to be very starchy and so sticks together if there isn’t plenty of room in the pot. Cook until it still has a slight bite and don’t over cook it or the pasta may disintegrate on you.
Once the pasta is cooked and drained, place it in a big serving bowel and spoon over the tomato sauce and meatballs. Stir the sauce in to the pasta, making sure to keep some meatballs on top where your guests can see them.
Garnish with plenty of grated parmesan and some fresh basil leaves. I like to leave to leave the cheese and the grater on the table so people can help them selves.
This quantity will serve four hungry or six more reserved people but you can serve it with fresh crusty bread or garlic bread if you want to make it stretch.