Peppery Meatballs with Tomato, Red Pepper and Red Wine Sauce

"There are few things that beat the sight and smell of hearty meatballs in a thick sauce. Served with freshly cooked pasta and parmesan cheese, its comfort food that dreams are made of. These beef meatballs are made with lots of black pepper and are smothered in a bright punchy sauce made with canned tomatoes, red pepper and smoked paprika. Serve with your favourite type of pasta - any shape will do!" Definitely serve with generous glasses of 2019 La Motte Syrah.

Peppery meatballs with tomato, red pepper and red wine sauce

Recipe, intro & photography: Ilse van der Merwe, the Food Fox

Ingredients: (serves 4)

For the sauce:

  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 10 ml (2 teaspoons) smoked paprika
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) dry red wine
  • 2 x cans whole Italian tomatoes, pureed to smooth pulp
  • 5 ml sugar
  • salt & pepper

For the meatballs:

  • 500 g extra lean beef mince
  • 1,5 cups soft breadcrumbs (about 2 slices of bread, shredded)
  • 1 XL egg
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried origanum
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 30 ml olive oil, for frying
  • 500 g pasta, freshly cooked (for serving)
  • grated parmesan cheese (for serving)
  • a handful fresh basil leaves (for serving, optional)


For the sauce: In a pot over stovetop, heat the oil and add the onion, garlic and red pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the onions are soft and has some colour. Add the paprika and continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, then add the wine and stir to deglaze. Add the pureed tomatoes, sugar and season generously with salt & pepper.  Turn the heat to low, cover partially with a lid and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, stirring now and then. If you prefer a smoother sauce, remove from the heat and use a stick blender to carefully blend to a less chunky consistency. Set aside.

For the meatballs: In a mixing bowl, add the mince, crumbs, egg, pepper, salt, origanum and cumin. Stir until well mixed (or use electric beaters to do this, it works like a charm), then roll into balls the size of golf balls. In a wide pan, heat the oil and fry the meatballs on all sides until browned but not fully cooked. Pour the sauce all over the meatballs, then bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook until the meatballs are just cooked and still tender, then serve warm ladled over freshly cooked pasta with parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

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