Friday 29 May 2015

Mozzarella Mustard Meatball Marinara Madness

Italian-style meatballs are a true comfort food. There’s something undeniably joyful about sitting down to a big plate of spaghetti meatballs, slathered in sauce and cheese. That dangling participle was just for you, grammar nerds. But you know what isn’t just for grammar nerds? These marvellous marinated meaty miracles with a mild mustard makeup.

I know what you’re thinking. “Is there anything more appetising than alliteration?”. How ‘bout rich, flavourful meatballs soaking in a tomato and red wine sauce, covered in a blanket of grilled mozzarella cheese… That do anything for you?

In all seriousness though, I did actually come up with the idea of packing these meatballs with dijon mustard when I was pondering a way to gratuitously shoehorn another word starting with ‘M’ into the title. True story.

Should I really be taking cooking advice from you?

Honestly? Probably not.

1) Mix together egg, minced beef, black pepper and a whole lot of dijon mustard. Shape into meatballs.

2) Fry meatballs in a little oil, browning all over before adding onion, oregano and basil. Cook until softened.

3) Pour in half a bottle of red wine and a couple cans of chopped tomatoes. Simmer for an hour.

4) Shred mozzarella over the sauce, then slide the pan under a hot grill until the cheese browns.

5) Serve with spaghetti.

Look at how easy that is! Why are you still here? Go cook it now!

I’m about 90% certain this is a practical joke. Mustard meatballs? For real?

Yes, for real. Ever put mustard on a burger? This is the same deal, only it’s not, because it’s so much better and smarter and more awesomer. Dijon mustard has quite a bit of vinegar in it, so not only does it give the mince brilliant flavour, it also tenderises it and keeps it moist. These things are practically marinating from the inside while they cook. It totally rocks.

And if the amount of dijon in the ingredients list seems like a lot, don’t worry. Flavours will transfer during the simmering, so the sauce will pull out some of the mustard, just as the meatballs will absorb flavour from the wine and herbs. Also, dijon is very mild, it’s nothing like English mustard.

If you need a bit more guidance, keep reading.

Ingredients (serves 3-4) - €12

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • black pepper
  • 3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • half a bottle of red wine
  • 2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 300g spaghetti
  • a ball of mozzarella

    To get your meatballs to hold together, you’re gonna need a little egg. Crack your egg into a mixing bowl, give it a quick beating, then throw in the mince. Add about a teaspoon of cracked black pepper, a little salt and all the dijon mustard. Mash the lot together, then shape into at least a dozen meatballs, each more meatballier than the last.

    Splash a little oil onto a nice big frying pan, get it medium-hot, then add in the meatballs. Let them fry for a couple of minutes, then flip them over. You want them to go golden brown on all sides, so keep turning every few minutes to cook them all over.

    Dice your onion and sprinkle it all around the meatballs, followed by the oregano and basil. When the onions have softened a little, gently stir them around the pan. Don’t get too excited with that spatula, or you’ll bust your meatballs and be a huge disappointment, both to yourself and everyone who knows you.

    When the onions start browning, add about a glass of wine to the pan. Carefully scrape the bottom of the pan to lift up any delicious bits of meat or onion that may have stuck to it. Now add the rest of the wine along with the chopped tomatoes, stir with care and leave it to simmer and reduce. Give it a stir every now and then to make sure nothing sticks, but basically you can leave it to do its thing.

    After about 40 minutes, bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt and your spaghetti. Give it a 5 minute head start, then turn your grill on high. Shred your ball of mozzarella and spread it over the top of your meatballs. Slide your balls under the grill (easy does it), and leave them there until the cheese melts and starts to brown.

    Drain the pasta and serve with great big scoops of meatballs and sauce. And the other half of that bottle of wine. Wouldn’t want it to go to waste.

(Confession time. That’s actually a spoon of French mustard in the picture, because I’d used up all my Dijon in the recipe. French mustard is actually not French, but English. But nor is it English mustard. Or French’s mustard, which is a whole different matter altogether. Got it? Good, there’ll be a test next week.

Ahem. Sorry, had to get that out of my system.)


  1. Wouldn't want any wine to go to waste no! Ehehehe.

    Caramelizing the mozzarella on top of the sauce is BRILLIANT. I am adding this to our meal plan and we shall enjoy it SOON.

    SOOOOON!! Thank you for sharing your recipe and being generally hilarious! Full disclosure: The images made me drool a bit...

  2. The mozzarella may in fact be the best part. It's so stringy and awesome, it's like eating a pizza. Only it's not a pizza, because it's a pasta... but you get what I mean.

    Thanks for your kind comment! The photos are my favourite part of the whole thing. That and the eating.