Baked Italian meatballs

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A prosaic title for what is a super dish, quick and easy, full of flavour, and pretty much loved by all (at least in my family). It’s so easy because the meatballs are simply prepared and then baked with a rich tomato sauce, with no need for cooking first. I like to make them on weeknights because they take only about 15 minutes to get into the oven, and then I can do other things while they are cooking. With pasta or garlic bread and a big salad, it makes a delicious dinner at the end of a busy day. Change the herbs to suit your taste and if you are really in a hurry, a good quality store-bought pasta sauce works very well instead of the home-made one. Never be concerned about taking short-cuts that don’t compromise a healthy dinner, but save you time, so you can spend more time with your family, and keep your stress levels down, especially if you are a working parent. margaretxx

500 g lean beef mince
1 slice of fresh bread, torn into small pieces
1 small onion, very finely diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 egg
salt and pepper
150 g fresh mozzarella, sliced
extra basil for garnish

Tomato sauce:
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 400g tin of chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh basil, torn into shreds
Sea salt and black pepper

In a medium sized sauce pan saute the onion, garlic and carrot in the olive oil until soft, about 5 – minutes. Add the oregano, brown sugar, vinegar and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil leaves. Season well with the salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside while you make the meatballs.

Preheat oven to 180 C. In a medium sized bowl combine all the meatball ingredients, except the mozzarella, and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Mix together with your hands and then form into 16 meatballs. Place into a ceramic baking dish that will hold them in a single layer, but not tightly packed. There needs to be room for the sauce to ooze around them. Pour over the sauce and cover with alfoil before baking in the oven for 45 minutes. Take off the foil and top with the cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese is oozy, but not browning. Serve with spaghetti, or with chewy garlic bread and a green salad. If you have teen-aged boys as I do, they also make an amazing filling for a meatball sub (with extra cheese, of course).