If we’re going to start cooking together, I must share with you my family’s all-time favourite…pasta with minceballs!

I’ve been making these since I was a girl helping my Nonna: now my grandchildren help me make the same meal. The smells while they’re cooking is divine, the licked plates and Nonna, ‘can I have some more?’ … a joy.

It is really quick and cheap to make, but best of all it tastes brilliant.

Easy Peasy!


For the meat balls:

200g lean minced beef

3 tablespoons breadcrumbs (just whizz some old bread in a blender)

1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 small onion finely grated

1 egg yolk

Sea salt and black pepper


Put all the mince ball ingredients in a bowl and mix it all together

Roll the mixture into about 8-10 small balls

For the sugo

3-4 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin if possible)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 small dried chilli or pinch chilli flakes

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 fresh bay leaf

3 x 400g tins tomatoes, whizzed in a blender

Sea salt and black pepper

A few sprigs fresh basil

Start the sugo by warming the oil in a shallow saucepan.

Add the garlic and chilli, sautéing for a few minutes to flavour the oil.

Add the onion, stir it around in the oil. Add the fresh bay leaf and with the lid on, leaving it on a low heat for 4-5 minutes to soften them without burning.

Raise the heat a little and add the meatballs, a few at a time turning them in the oil to brown them. Remove and leave aside.

When they are all browned loosen any pieces of meat from the bottom of the saucepan and add the sieved tomatoes.

Stir and bring to a simmer. Lay the browned meatballs gently into the sauce.

Cover with a lid, balanced on a wooden spoon so that some moisture can escape, and leave to simmer gently for 1 to ½ hours.

The sugo will evaporate and thicken.

Taste and season with sea salt and black pepper and add a few sprigs fresh basil.

Add to any boiled pasta you fancy or just eat with a thick slice of bread.

This will make a meal for 4-5 people. It keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days or you can freeze it.

Cooks Tip:

Buy fresh herb plants from garden centres and keep them on the windowsill…rosemary, bay, parsley, basil. They’ll last months and you will have any fresh herbs you need.

Mary Contini is author and broadcaster, director Valvona & Crolla ( valvonacrolla.com)

Easy Peasy Real cooking for Kids Mary Contini and Pru irvine Birlinn …Out now

Mary Contini ©