Spaghetti with spicy meatballs

Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 40 minutes Serves: 4


Courtesy of Bill Granger


  • 80ml (1/3 cup) milk
  • 1 slice of bread, crust removed
  • 500g beef mince, or pork and veal mince
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 25g (1/4 cup) freshly grated Parmesan
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped Roma (plum) tomatoes
  • 50g (1/2 cup) fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 500g spaghetti
  • To serve:
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Put the milk and bread in a small saucepan and place over a low heat. When the bread has absorbed the milk, remove from the heat and mash with a fork. Allow to cool.

Combine the meat, onion, parsley, thyme, egg, Parmesan, garlic, half of the chilli, the bread mixture and lots of salt and pepper into a large bowl. Gently mix with your hands, then shape into small balls. I find wetting my hands makes this easier.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the meatballs. Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning carefully. Alternatively you can toss the meatballs in oil in a roasting tin and bake them at 220C (Gas 7) for 10 to 15 minutes. You may find this easier because the meatballs won’t break up.

Drain off any excess oil (if you’ve baked the meatballs, transfer them to a frying pan) and add the tomatoes, remaining chilli, basil and salt and pepper. Stir the meatballs carefully to coat with the tomatoes, then simmer for 20 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over a high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, until al dente.

To serve: Divide the drained spaghetti among four bowls. Spoon over the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with extra basil leaves and freshly grated Parmesan.

Spotted a problem with this recipe? Contact me