A light and succulent dish, which has been exhuberantly greeted by Italian eaters!
Warm the garlic oil in a large heavy-based saucepan or casserole, add the onion and celery mixture, along with the thyme, and cook at moderate to low heat, stirring every now and again, for about 10 minutes.
Add the cans of tomato, filling up each empty can with water to add to the pan. Season with the sugar, salt and pepper, stir and let it come to a bubble, then turn the heat down to simmer gently while you get on with the meatballs.
Put all the ingredients for the meatballs, including the reserved chopped onion and celery, and salt according to preference, into a large bowl and mix together, gently, with your hands, wearing CSI gloves if you feel so inclined. Don’t over-mix, as that will make the meatballs dense-textured and heavy.
When all the meatball ingredients are not too officiously amalgamated, start rolling. The easiest way is to pinch out an amount about the size of a generously heaped teaspoon and roll into a bowl between the palms of your hands. Put the meatballs on a baking tray, lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper, as you go. You should get about 50 little meatballs.
Drop these gently into the simmering sauce; try and let these fall in concentric circles working around the pan from the outside edge inwards, in the vaguest of fashions.
Let the meatballs simmer for 30 minutes, until cooked through. Serve with rice or pasta or however you so please.
MAKE AHEAD NOTE
The meatballs and sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead. Transfer meatballs and sauce to a non- metallic bowl to cool, cover and refrigerate as soon as possible. Reheat gently in a saucepan, giving the occasional stir (be careful not to break up the meatballs), until meatballs and sauce are piping hot.
The cooled meatballs and sauce can be frozen in airtight container for up to 3 months. You may find it handy to freeze in individual portions if making a large quantity. Defrost overnight in fridge and reheat as above.
Recipe from Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus, part of the Random House Group Ltd.
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