Serves 10 children
For the meatballs
2 slices of day-old bread (about 50g), crusts removed
400g minced beef
1 small sweet potato, finely grated
1 handful of spinach
2 eggs, lightly beaten
A clove of garlic, finely chopped
A sprig of parsley or basil, finely chopped
Black pepper (optional)
For the sauce
2 sticks of celery
1 clove of garlic
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 bay leaves
Put the bread and spinach in a food processor and blitz to a fine crumb. Tip the mix into a large bowl along with the beef and lightly beaten eggs.
Add the garlic, herbs, grated sweet potato and pepper, if using, to the meat, then use your hands to mix everything together. Divide the mixture into 20 mini meatballs, place on a tray and leave to rest in the fridge while you make the sauce.
Dice the carrots, celery and garlic roughly. Heat 4tbsp of oil in a large casserole dish and sauté the vegetables until they are beginning to soften but not brown.
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and bay leaves, then simmer the sauce very gently for 30 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through and the tomatoes have thickened up. Remove the bay leaves, blend the sauce until smooth and pop the bay leaves back in along with the final two tablespoons of oil.
Drop the meatballs gently into the sauce, bring back up to a low simmer, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes without a lid. Baking the meatballs, rather than simmering on the hob, helps to stop them breaking up as they cook.
Allergies: For gluten-free or egg-free you can leave out the bread and eggs, but these help to bind the mixture so you will need to bake the meatballs on a baking sheet and pour the tomato sauce over them before serving.