As a cash-and-time-poor working mother I have always been on the hunt for quick, cheap supper dishes to sling together after a busy day at school. This recipe entered the repertoire when we were living in South Croxted Road – I think it was inspired originally by a two-minute TV ad. You can make the meatballs from scratch, as illustrated in the picture below, but it’s quicker and no more expensive to buy them ready-made. (At time of writing, Sainsbury’s is selling 12 for just £2.) You can also use a non-meat substitute to make a completely vegan meal. A crisp green salad on the side is the only accompaniment needed.
Serves 4 generously
1 large onion – brown or red – halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 hot red chilli, sliced, or use chilli flakes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 packs of 12 meatballs
1 small bottle (187ml) red wine
1 500g carton passata
2 bay leaves
3 fat sprigs thyme (optional)
1 tsp sugar
Salt & pepper
Spaghetti or linguine – allow 90g per person
Grated parmesan to serve
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the meatballs – in batches if necessary – just long enough to brown their surfaces. Remove to a plate. Add another tbsp oil to the pan and then the onion; lower the heat and cook slowly for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and fresh chilli and fry for a further two minutes. Raise the heat, pour in the red wine and bubble for a couple of minutes to boil off the alcohol. Now add the passata, thyme, bay leaf, sugar, salt and pepper. Return the meatballs to the pan, cover and simmer on a low heat while you cook the pasta. Serve with grated parmesan and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want an extra kick.