Most of us who have children know that it can sometimes be a bit tricky to get them to eat enough vegetables. And every opportunity I get I sneak them in without the children knowing it. This is a perfect recipe where I can add vegetables without anyone having a slightest idea that they are anywhere near their food. You can use what ever veg you want, this time I used a courgette but it could just as well be something like carrots, squash, celeriac, potatoes or any other hard vegetable you have got. The good thing about courgettes is that they don't really taste of anything and kind of melt into the meat so you can't see them in the meatballs.
I also add more vegetables then you would normally put into a tomato pasta sauce. And because I puree it, I get away with it. And trust me, it is absolutely delicious and my kids love it every single time!
This is quite a big recipe and would easily be enough for six adults. It is also very good to freeze.
For the meatballs
1 kg mince beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, grated, crushed or finely chopped
1 large courgette, finely grated (squeeze out the juice and put into the sauce)
1 cup breadcrumbs
50 gr grated parmesan
handful chopped parsley
salt and pepper
For the sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 butternut squash, pealed and roughly chopped
2 tins of tomatoes
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper
small handful chopped parsley
Start by mixing all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl. When it comes to seasoning the mixture, go easy on the salt because the parmesan cheese is a bit salty. Heat a large pan (that has a lid) and add some olive oil. Make one small ball and cook until it's done. Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. If you're happy you can start browning the meatballs. I like my meatballs to be the size of a ping pong ball but you just make them what ever size you want.
This is also a great chance to get the kids into the kitchen to help and as we all know, if they help with the cooking they are more likely to eat the food! My daughter Lilja assisted me this time and did an excellent job!
You don't need to cook the meatballs all the way through because they will get finished in the sauce. Now it's just the time for browning them nicely on hight heat. Remove them from the pan and put them aside and start making the sauce. I sometimes skip this step and don't brown the meatballs and just cook them in the sauce. It does taste a little different and you don't get that browned flavour but instead the meatballs are really nice and soft and soak up the flavours from the sauce.
Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic into the same pan and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they start to change colour a bit and soften. Add the squash, tomatoes, water (or stock), sugar, juice from the courgette and season with a little salt and pepper. Let this simmer on low heat until the vegetables have gone nice and soft. This takes around 20-30 minutes. You can use a stick blender or a regular blender to puree the sauce and make it as smooth as you like. I actually like it quite smooth so I use a regular blender but what ever you do it's going to be good.
Put the sauce back into the pan and add the meatballs and cook on low heat for 30 minutes but if you have got an hour it will only make them better. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the chopped parsley.
Serve with some spaghetti, I always use wholewheat, and with a generous grating of fresh parmesan. And to be extra good to your self, you might as well have a glass of your favourite wine.