Accidental Veal Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I try my very best to not screw up. I don’t like that sinking feeling of making mistakes. I spent the early part (the first 40 years) of my working life on the service side of business. Having spent my time always trying (and occasionally failing) to meet the needs, wants and even whims of my customers, I have been left with a Pavlovian reaction to my mistakes. I own up, I apologise and I ask what I can do to make it right. So, picture me in the butcher’s wearing my mask, talking through the small gap in the perspex screen and intending to ask for a generous half kilo of venison mince. What arrived was a generous half kilo of veal mince.

Did I ask for veal instead of venison? Probably (says Pavlov) or at least possibly. So, a few minutes later, I left the butcher with a generous half kilo of veal mince for today’s recipe and a generous half kilo of venison mince, for another recipe. Having the 650 gms (generous half kilo) of veal got me thinking. I concocted a pretty simple recipe using what was at hand in the kitchen, not wanting to expose myself to virus potential more than necessary.

Here’s what I did to produce a really delightful, simple and quick recipe for veal meatballs in tomato sauce.

Meatball Ingredients

  • 650 gms of veal mince
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 150 gms of breadcrumbs
  • 150 gms of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Half a teaspoon of black pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • A generous pinch of salt

Sauce ingredients

  • 2 400gram tins of tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes

This is more of a throwing than a pouring shot.


Good quality ingredients make for great food. This is a truly free range egg.

To make the meatballs, put all the ingredients in a big bowl, reserving about one third of the cheese. mix by hand until well combined. Make up sixteen table tennis ball sized meatballs.  place these in the fridge to settle.

I decided against getting minced veal under my fingernails. The “bought because of Covid’ gloves came in handy.


The symmetry (despite one being a bit small) makes for a nice shot.

For the sauce, peel and thinly slice the garlic. Add all the ingredients to a wide saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer and occasionally stir for about twenty minutes with the lid on (not while stirring). Using the back of a wooden spoon, break down any tomato pieces that survive the cooking.

The sauce is simplicity itself.

Add a small amount of oil to a frying pan and fry the meatballs until brown on most sides. I have never been able to get meatballs brown on all sides without deep frying. Add the meatballs to the sauce and place a lid on before placing in a medium 180ºC / 350ºF oven for about fifteen minutes.

The cast iron frying pan does a nice job on the meatballs.

Cook your desired pasta. I had only got these squiggly pieces so they were the “pasta of choice” for this dish. They worked really well.

Serve the meatballs and sauce with the pasta (or crusty bread, if you have it), sprinkling the remaining cheese over the top and giving it a twist of black pepper too.

Lovely veal meatballs. I can’t praise them enough.

This accidental veal meatball dish is a delight and I highly commend getting the ingredients and making it for yourself and family. Do enjoy it.

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Latest comments
  • Clever butcher got a sale for both veal and venison. Plus he adds 28% extra to what was requested. Boosting his sales. I’d say that is one very very successful butcher.

  • Between sets of tennis in the Australian Open three hours before poor Victoria is back in hard lockdown I have just discovered your post ! Better than the game !!! Don’t think I can get either veal or venison mince but the butcher does offer what he calls pork and veal mince . . . it will be bought because I really want to make your meatballs: my favourite fennel, oregano, paprika and chilli together should make me a very happy camper ! I love it goes in the oven . . . and I can’t get my meatballs evenly brown either . . . best . . .

  • Will be giving this a go, looks delicious!!

  • I’m sure the meats are a wonderful combination of flavors! I always love the spices you choose!

  • That sounds like a delicious mistake. It’s not easy hearing people who are wearing a mask and normally we look at people’s lips when we converse.

  • I was going through your ingredients list, ticking things off: “Yup, use that, yes, that and that and that…” but there’s one thing I’d dearly love you to try next time you make meatballs. Please would you consider adding a little dried porcini powder to the meatballs? It gives a brilliant boost to the flavour without great oozy chunks of mushroom in the mix. Say, a generous teaspoonful to your own lineup? Like Eha, I can get pork and veal mixed, and it does work a treat. My trick with the browning of the meatballs is to ever so slightly flatten the sides so it’s a very rounded cube rather than a ball. I appreciate this is an oxymoron, but it does the job in getting the majority of the, er, ball, brown. Plus they don’t roll about in the pan in that annoying way that balls do…

  • With the smoked paprika in the sauce, it reminds me of Spanish albóndigas. For the sauce I would start with some olive oil and sauté the garlic and fennel seeds in there to bring out their flavor, but your version has less calories. Love all the pouring and throwing shots!

  • Ah yes, so much miscommunication due to masks but as the alternative can be pretty permanent, we muddle through. I got carded today buying wine and the clerk asked for my birthday, misunderstood me so apparently today is my birthday. It’s not. Lovely dish as usual.

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