Tag Archives: tomato sauce

autumnal meatballs

meatballs and courgetti 2IMG_3703


Poor neglected blog. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking and eating, obv – just that a natural break happened (which included six blissful weeks out of The Routine while school holidays occurred) during which time, among other things, I did a week’s course at Leith’s cookery school which was amazing (and which I blogged about here).

And suddenly here we are on the threshold of autumn; still just about warm enough to justify sockless feet and holding out hope for another warm spell before it’s well and truly over. So what to cook? Parmesan meatballs and courgetti, I thought.

Meatballs ARE a bit of a faff compared to Bolognese, it’s true. But if you are in the mood for not minding a bit of faff, the pay off is worth it, at least I think so.

And my new discovery about tomato sauce – am I late coming to this partay? – is to blitz it, post-cooking, with a stick blender, so it’s silky smooth without the rustic onion and chunky tomato factor which one is sometimes, but not always, in the mood for.

Instead of flour, I add almond flour along with parmesan to give the meatballs a bit of body and a bit of stick. And I served these with courgetti instead of spaghetti but you could please both crowds very easily by whipping up some of the real stuff too.

Oh yes and mucho parmesan on top, obviously. In my case so mucho that you can’t quite see the meatballs that lurk beneath, which is why I’ve done a before and after pic.

Serve with a green salad to remind yourself that summer ain’t over quite yet.

Tomato sauce

2 or 3 onions

3 or 4 cans of Napolitana tomatoes (it’s so worth splashing the cash on tinned tomatoes, can I just say?)

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

ground nut oil (which I am currently favouring for cooking due to the higher smoke point although once the sauce is cooked, before serving, I recommend a splash of extra virgin olive oil)

Chop the onions roughly (bearing in mind they will later be blitzed) and fry gently until they soften at which point add the tomatoes. Season, and add the garlic using a presser and cook for about 40 minutes at which point you can blitz straight away or leave to cool, depending on when you want to eat it.


1 medium onion, finely chopped

500g Lean ground beef (I tend to go for the most expensive I can afford, ideally organic)

1 egg, whisked

85g grated parmesan

100g ground almonds

1-2 teaspoons oregano

1 clove garlic crushed

lemon zest

groundnut oil

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, using a knife to break up the beef and your hands to mix it all before form into balls which is the messy* and time consuming part. Size is optional, depending on what you favour but I do prefer smallish ie bite sized, much as I try to avoid that phrase which makes me cringe a bit for some reason.

Heat some groundnut oil and brown the meatballs all over in a pan. Hopefully the egg/almond flour combo will mean they are fairly robust. Once they are browned all over, add the tomato sauce and gently cook for about 45 minutes. Then serve, atop a lovely courgetti mound.

*I just read in ‘Jamie’ magazine that if you dip your hands into cold water between meatballs your hands get less gunky but I have not yet tried this so will report back once I have.


Got a spiraliser? If not then you can try grating them, which does actually work although it creates shorter strands. If you do have a spiraliser, then spiralise about two courgettes per person and either blanche in water or, if like me you favour the oil and garlic option then pan fry them in a wok until they are fairly soft, at which point season, and serve, not even noticing that they are not spaghetti.

aubergizza and griddled courgettes

Auberg-izza      griddled courgettes


Back in the day when I could eat pizza with abandon, I was blasé and took it for granted. I did eat pizza quite often (mmmm Strada) but I don’t think I realised how lucky I was and how much I would miss it when it was gone.

But whenever I am getting forlorn and sad, and wistfully rueing all the delicacies that I can no longer eat (tempting though that is) what I try to do is to stay in the present. And, now that pizza has been banned, I keep on coming up with new ways to scratch the pizza itch. Cauliflower pizza is pretty darn good, and so are roasted tomatoes with oregano. But here’s the latest experiment: aubergizza! Or maybe it’s pizzagine; I haven’t decided yet. I made these for my vegetarian sister-in-law at the weekend and I was planning to make lots of things to go with them. But we ran out of time so I just served them with these griddled courgettes, and a green salad, and it felt like a pretty substantial supper and really quite pizza-like (bearing in mind that I am coming from a starting point of complete pizza-less-ness, that is).


Tomato sauce

I made this a couple of hours in advance as it benefits from a bit of long slow cooking but it’s really an assembly job and then the magic just happens in the pan with zero interference.

2 small onions, diced

2 garlic cloves

2 tins tomatoes (it’s really worth splashing the cash on Napolitana ones which are twice the price but twice as nice as many other brands, I think).

Fry the onions in ground nut or rape seed oil (I know I’m coming late to the party but these oils have a higher burn point than olive oil so don’t turn into horrible transfats) until soft and translucent. When they are cooked, gently smash the garlic with the back of a large knife and put in whole for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes then cooking for at least an hour, with the lid off so it reduces a bit and becomes fairly consolidated. Put aside and move onto the aubergines. If you are making this and really feel passionately that olive oil is essential – as I do, actually – you could always add a glug of extra virgin olive oil at the very end, once cooked, just before serving.


Just to say that a griddle pan is a pretty essential piece of kit for this!

4 medium aubergines (I allowed one per person in case they were so delicious people couldn’t stop eating them – but we had leftovers which is no bad thing).

Tomato sauce

cheddar cheese, grated

Slice the aubergines lengthways into pretty chunky slices (it depends on size of course but I got four slices out of each one). Ideally, you’d put them into a bowl and salt them then leave them with a heavy weight on for at least half an hour before wiping the salt and water away. But I don’t suppose it’s the end of the world if you don’t have time for this. Then put them into a bowl and use your hands to make sure they are completely covered on both sides with rape seed oil. Heat your griddle pan up so it’s really hot, then place the aubergine slices lengthways (you’ll probably have to do this in batches and the pan should be so hot that the aubergines should sizzle as they meet it). Cook one side and then the other, using a fork to make sure they are properly cooked and beautifully branded with sizzle marks. Then remove to cool and  continue cooking the rest.

Once you’ve cooked them all, put the grill on and arrange the aubergines side by side on the grill pan before covering each one with tomato sauce, then cheddar, and grilling them so the cheese melts.

As the cheese was melting, I gridded my courgettes, which I’d basted in rapeseed oil and lemon. If I’d had more time I might have done something a bit fancier with them (some kind of garlicky dressing and maybe built a salad around them), but they were pretty good on their own.