Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Use lean pork or beef mince, or a combination of both. This is awesome!

I’ve been making Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce from the Hairy Dieters since their inaugural book was published in 2013 and can’t believe I’m only getting round to featuring it on the blog now. This is a brilliant, classic meatball dish which is perfect for a low-calorie diet providing you use 5% fat mince and go easy on the pasta!

Sure, there are fancier meatball recipes around, and I feature some of them on the blog here. But for sheer simplicity and taste, this one is hard to beat. If you’re not the best chopper and worried about your meatballs falling apart when you cook them in the pan, combine the ingredients and blitz them in a food processer – It will then be easier to form them into small meatballs.

And if you can be arsed, use electronic scales to weigh each meatball so they are the same size. You don’t want a loved one / family member kicking off that you’ve had a bigger portion than them ;-).

Recipe: Italian Meatballs with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Calories: 282 per serving (without pasta and/or cooked vegetables)

Serves: 4

Book: Hairy Dieters – how to love food and lose weight

Prep time: Approx 30 minutes

Cooking time: Approx 50 minutes


  • 500g lean pork or beef mince (less than 10% fat) or 250g of each
  • ½ medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium carrot (peeled and finely grated)
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • Ground black pepper

Tomato sauce:

  • 2 tsp sunflower oil
  • ½ medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed)
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml red wine or water
  • 200ml cold water

Cost per portion: Approx £1.12 (without pasta and/or cooked vegetables)


To make the meatballs, put the mince in a large bowl and add the onion, carrot, garlic, oregano, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Mix with clean hands until everything is well combined, then shape the mixture into 24 small balls; they should be slightly than a walnut in its shell.

Pour the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or saute pan and fry the meatballs over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Keep turning and rolling the meatballs around the pan until lightly browned, then transfer them to a plate.

To make the sauce, pour the sunflower oil into a medium non-stick saucepan and add the onion. Fry for 4 minutes, stirring regularly, then add the garlic and fry for 1 minute more.

Tip the tomatoes, red wine and water into the pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the browned meatballs to the sauce and bring back to a simmer.

Cover the pan loosely with a lid and leave the meatballs to simmer gently in the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue simmering gently for another 15-20 minutes or until the sauce is thick. Stir often and add a little extra water if the sauce reduces too quickly. Serve hot with a small portion of pasta or lots of freshly cooked vegetables.


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