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Valli Little’s Baked Smoky Meatballs

Valli Little’s Baked Smoky Meatballs

Today we are in for a treat – a recipe for Baked Smoky Meatballs from the legendary Valli Little. These Baked Smoky Meatballs are not only delicious but they are a clever prepare-it-now-eat-it-later dish, which is perfect for busy people (i.e. almost everyone). Who doesn’t love a meal that you can prepare in advance, daydream about for a day or two and then enjoy with very little extra effort?

The recipe comes straight out of Valli’s new cookbook MY KIND OF FOOD, which is published by HarperCollins, who kindly shared this recipe with us and sent me a review copy (thanks HarperCollins).

After having a good flick through the book, two things became clear. Firstly, the mouthwatering photos were making me very, very hungry. And secondly that My Kind of Food is filled with recipes you’ll actually want to make. The recipes aren’t exactly groundbreaking (it’s mostly stuff you would have seen before), however it’s great for inspiration whenever you’re looking for something to make on any given day, or when you’ve got people coming round. The cookbook’s spiel even says that these are recipes Valli cooks for the people she loves. Chances are, you’ll want to do the same.

Additionally, there are a few new ideas, like a one-pot pasta recipe you cook the actual pasta in. Plus, some overnight cinnamon muffins that you prepare the night before and put in the oven first thing in the morning for a delicious breakfast treat. There are also some very tempting Christmas recipes (it’s never too early to prep for Christmas – or eat Christmas food) as well as a section called ‘When Only Chocolate Will Do’ which is pretty much the story of my life. Another section contains recipes for outdoor dining, and another is all about easy mid-week and Sunday dinners. Busy cooks will probably find this section the most useful, as well as the ‘Cook it Now, Eat it Later’ section. Or maybe even the ‘Simple but Special’ recipes, which offer an easy way to wow guests.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of great ideas, and once you get your hands on a copy you’ll see what I mean about the pictures.

Without further ado, here is the recipe for Baked Smoky Meatballs. Over to Valli Little.

Valli Little’s Baked Smoky Meatballs

Valli says: Whether they’re piled on top of spaghetti, wrapped in a sub, served with some crusty bread on the side or, like these, served on top of cheesy polenta, you just can’t go wrong with meatballs. After the simmering stage, these meatballs will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just finish with the cheese and breadcrumbs, bake and you’re ready to go.

Serves: 4

Baked Smoky Meatballs
Baked Smoky Meatballs from Valli Little’s MY KIND OF FOOD


  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) beef stock
  • 200g prosciutto or bacon, very finely chopped
  • 800g beef mince
  • 3/4 cup (60g) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1⁄3 cup (100g) mozzarella, grated
  • 1/4 cup (25g) pecorino or parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
  • 1 cup (60g) panko breadcrumbs
  • Instant polenta, cooked according to packet instructions, to serve
  • 2 tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve


  1. Heat 1/4 cup (60ml) of the oil in a large frypan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and oregano and cook for 5–6 minutes until soft and pale golden. Place half the mixture into a mixing bowl and set aside to cool. Add the tomato paste to the remaining onion mixture along with the vinegar, chopped tomatoes, chilli paste, brown sugar and stock and bring to a simmer over low heat. Season.
  3. Add the prosciutto or bacon, mince, fresh breadcrumbs and egg to the mixing bowl with the cooled onions, season and combine well.
  4. Using damp hands, form the mixture into small balls.
  5. Heat the remaining oil in a clean frypan over medium–high heat.
  6. Fry the meatballs in batches, turning often, for 4–5 minutes until golden all over. Transfer the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  8. Combine the mozzarella, parmesan and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Set aside.
  9. To serve, spread hot polenta onto a greased baking tray, top with the meatballs and sprinkle with the cheesy breadcrumb mixture.
  10. Cook in the oven for 5–6 minutes until the cheese has melted and the crumbs are crisp. Scatter over the parsley.

So there you have it. Valli Little’s Baked Smoky Meatballs.

In conclusion: delicious!


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