This recipe was inspired by a really good main course we had in Coppinger Row at the start of the summer, a normal meatball and linguine dish was given a great twist by using mint instead of the usual basil in the tomato sauce. I’ve swapped the beef with lamb given its affinity for mint and added some fish sauce to the mince because anchovies are another great companion to lamb but you could use finely chopped whole fillets if you wanted to instead. A good trick when making making meatballs is to add parmesan to the meat which adds umami but also acts as the seasoning so you shouldn’t need any salt (if unsure, fry off a small chunk of the mixture to check); I’ve used pecorino here instead though because it’s a sheep’s cheese and feels like a better fit.
For the meatballs:
25ml olive oil
500g lamb mince
1 small clove garlic, grated
10ml fish sauce
5g dried rosemary
2g ground pepper
For the sauce:
25ml olive oil
75g celery, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
100ml white wine
2 tins of San Marzano tomatoes
3 sprigs mint
15g chopped mint leaves
5ml red wine vinegar
- For the meatballs, combine all the ingredients bar the olive oil in a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Take a chunk of the mince and shape into a ball around the size of a golf ball. Repeat until all the meat is used up, you should be left with around 8 meatballs.
- Leave to rest and firm up in the fridge for half an hour.
- Heat a pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.
- Fry the meatballs until browned all over. Remove and set to one side.
- For the sauce, using the same pan, place over a low heat and add the olive oil.
- Add the celery, garlic and anchovies and sauté for 4-5 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to high and deglaze the pan with the wine.
- When that has mostly evaporated, add the tomatoes and break them up with your spoon (alternatively whizz them to a liquid in your blender before cooking).
- Add the sugar and sprigs of mint and simmer for 2-3 minutes before putting the meatballs back in.
- Cook the meatballs for 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally to ensure they are evenly done.
- In a pot of boiling, heavily salted water cook the pasta until al dente.
- When the meatballs are done, remove from the sauce and keep warm.
- Stir in the chopped mint and the red wine vinegar and adjust the seasoning if required. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- When ready drain the pasta and combine with the sauce, ensuring the pasta is coated evenly.
- Divide the pasta amongst the plates and serve the meatballs on top with a large helping of grated pecorino.