If there's one dish my picking-eater kids will always eat, it's meatballs. I don't know what it is about them. They are made up of ingredients the kids would normally turn their noses up at, but somehow, they way they all come together in a meatball is pleasing to them. I'm just going to go with it, be thankful they like something I cook and stay silent about those "hidden ingredients".

Autumn has well and truly arrived at our farm and, with it, heartier dinners.

I'm sure you've heard this before, but a tomato sauce is a great way to get vegetables into your picky eaters. I like to let all the vegetables (carrots, onion, celery, garlic) saute slowly, until they're completely cooked through and golden brown, before adding in the tinned tomatoes - that way, they blend in perfectly to the final product – nothing too crunchy; all the flavours combined into one savoury, delicious plate.

There is something so comforting about a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. It's filling, satisfying and just so delicious. The key to good meatballs is always in the mix. This recipe is my favourite.

I know a lot of people put minced onion into their meatballs and I am here to tell you to stop. Minced garlic? Totally fine. If you want to add in onion to your meatballs, I would recommend sauteeing them first – there is nothing worse than the harsh flavour of undercooked chunks of onion in an otherwise tender meatball.

If you're feeling adventurous, try forming your meatballs around a cube or ball of mozzarella - adding in the element of gooey cheese is a total game changer.

Janine's favourite meatballs and tomato sauce

Serves 6-8


For the meatballs:

2lbs minced beef

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 heaping tsp Dijon mustard

Dashes of Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp oregano

1 slice stale bread, torn into small chunks (or 40g breadcrumbs)

100ml buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

30g finely grated Parmesan cheese

For the tomato sauce:

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 large onion, finely diced

1 large carrot, grated

1 stalk celery, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp chili flakes (optional)

1 tsp oregano

2 400g tins chopped tomatoes or 1l tomato passata

2 tsp salt (or season to taste)

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp granulated sugar

To serve:

Cooked pasta, tossed in some butter and Parmesan


1. Make the meatballs: preheat your oven to 200°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the minced beef, garlic, parmesan, Dijon, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and oregano.

2. In a smaller bowl, add the torn bread or breadcrumbs, buttermilk and egg. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until the bread has absorbed much of the liquid. Mix well and add to the meat mixture.

3. Using your hands, mix the meatball mixture until everything is well-combined. Divide the mixture into 16 small meatballs and place on the lined baking sheet.

4. Bake the meatballs in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Make the tomato sauce: in a large saucepan, heat the rapeseed oil on medium high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for five to eight minutes, until soft and starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook for an additional five minutes.

6. Add in the tinned tomatoes or passata and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook gently for 25-30 minutes. At this stage, you can blend the sauce with a hand blender or simply add in the meatballs. Cook with the meatballs for an additional 15-20 minutes.

7. While the meatballs are simmering in the sauce, make your pasta.

8. Toss the cooked pasta in butter and parmesan cheese. Place on warmed plates and top with a few meatballs and a big spoonful of sauce. Enjoy!