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Chianti Baked Meatballs

This recipe first came about when my husband Phil was training to do the London marathon. He could eat for England after a long run on a Sunday afternoon and rather than attempting the running, I would be the good wife and prepare this hearty delight. Serve with rigatoni, penne or spaghetti or some chunks of potato mixed with rosemary and olive oil and baked in the oven alongside the meatballs.

serves four

(or two if you have a marathon runner to feed!)

takes about 1 hour to make

for the meatballs

500g minced beef

1 onion, very finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

50g stoned black olives, chopped

50g breadcrumbs

25g finely grated

Parmesan cheese

1 lightly beaten egg

1 teaspoon paprika

1 long red chilli, finely chopped

2–3 tablespoons chopped parsley

sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

for the sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

250ml Chianti red wine

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons caster sugar

a large handful of chopped basil

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/fan 200ºC/gas 7.

To make the meatballs, all you need to do is mix everything together really well (this is much easier using your hands). Now, using wet hands, divide the mixture into about twelve large or twenty small balls (giving three large or five small meatballs per portion). Lightly toss the meatballs in the olive oil in an ovenproof sauté pan or a roasting tray. Choose one that is just big enough to fit the meatballs, but not so small that they are squashed together or so big that the liquid evaporates too quickly, leaving less sauce.

Bake the meatballs for 10 minutes, and then pour over the Chianti, turning the meatballs so they are coated in the red wine. There may be some residue

in the pan from the meat. This is fine, just stir it into the wine and it will all cook together to give a lovely flavour.

Return to the oven for 10 minutes, and then stir in the chopped tomatoes, sugar and basil. Cook for a further 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and thickened. Serve straight away with some pasta or baked rosemary potatoes.

In the mood for a drink? It has to be Chianti, of course.

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