Tagliatelle with meatballs

    1 hour 15 min

    This is a variation of the ever-popular spaghetti bolognese and is sure to become just as well-loved. The little meatballs have aubergine added for a modern twist, and the sauce contains all the essential flavours of a classic Italian dish. Both can be made ahead, then simply reheated when you are ready to cook the pasta.

    118 people made this

    Serves: 6 

    • 1 aubergine, about 200 g (7 oz)
    • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 340 g (12 oz) lean minced beef
    • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 100 g (3½ oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
    • grated zest of 1 lemon
    • 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves
    • 400 g (14 oz) tagliatelle made with egg
    • salt and pepper
    • fresh basil leaves to garnish
    • Rich tomato sauce
    • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 4 lean back bacon rashers, about 125 g (4½ oz) in total, rinded and chopped
    • 1 onion, roughly chopped
    • 1 medium-sized carrot, thinly sliced
    • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 2 cans chopped tomatoes, about 400 g each
    • 150 ml (5 fl oz) dry white wine
    • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

    Prep:40min  ›  Cook:35min  ›  Ready in:1hr15min 

    1. Preheat the grill to high. Halve the aubergine lengthways, then place skin side up on the rack in the grill pan and grill for 5 minutes. Turn the aubergine halves over, brush each cut side with 1 tsp oil, and grill for a further 5 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Cool.
    2. Peel away the aubergine skin, then place the flesh in a blender or food processor. Add the beef, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, basil leaves and seasoning to taste and blend briefly. With wet hands, shape the mixture into 36 balls. Chill until ready to cook.
    3. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan, add the bacon and onion and fry, stirring, for 3–4 minutes or until softened. Stir in the carrot, celery and garlic and fry, stirring frequently, for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the wine and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
    4. While the sauce is cooking, fry the meatballs in a large non-stick frying pan without any fat. Fry in 3 batches, for 10–12 minutes each batch, until evenly browned and cooked through. As they are done, remove the meatballs with a draining spoon and drain on kitchen paper. When they are all cooked, add them to the sauce together with the chopped basil and keep warm.
    5. Drop the tagliatelle into a large saucepan of boiling water. When the water returns to the boil, cook for 10–12 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain the pasta, toss with the meatballs and sauce and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.

    Some more ideas

    Omit the basil and add 1 tbsp pesto to the sauce. Red pesto is particularly good. * Stir 85 g (3 oz) baby leaf spinach into the sauce with the meatballs. * Lean minced venison, lamb or pork can be used in place of the beef. * If you like a spicy sauce, add 1/2 tsp chilli sauce or a few drops of Tabasco sauce. * Use other pasta shapes – spaghetti and penne are also good with meatballs. * Instead of celery use 1/2 bulb fennel, chopped. * Serve the pasta topped with shavings of fresh Parmesan. * The meatball mixture can also be shaped into patties and pan-fried in a little olive oil, then served inside burger buns with salad and tomato chutney.

    Plus points

    Pasta made with egg (pasta all'uova) is a most valuable food, low in fat yet rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. It is also an excellent source of starchy carbohydrate, which is why it is favoured by athletes, especially the night before a big sporting event. When pasta is eaten, the starch is broken down into glucose. This is then stored in the muscles as glycogen, which is slowly released to provide energy during exercise. * Adding aubergine and breadcrumbs to meatballs not only gives them a lovely flavour and light texture but it also increases the amount of fibre they contain. * Frying the meatballs without any fat or oil draws out some of the fat in the beef, which can then be drained off and discarded.

    Each serving provides

    B1, B6, B12, C, E, niacin * A, folate, copper, potassium * B2, selenium

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    Reviews in English (9)


    Altered ingredient amounts. We do not like celery so I put in 2 carrots  -  28 Feb 2011


    very nice  -  05 Jan 2012


    Liked BUT Far too lemony for our taste will put in much less lemon zest next time also red wine instead of white.  -  28 Feb 2011