These juicy, mozzarella stuffed meatballs in a rich tomato sauce are guaranteed to make your mouth water! They’re so easy you can make them for a mid-week meal, but special enough for a weekend treat too.
Meatballs – a real classic
Meatballs are a classic comfort food that has been enjoyed for generations. Adding mozzarella cheese to the meatball mixture takes this dish to another level. The melted cheese inside the meatballs adds a creamy, gooey texture that perfectly complements the rich tomato sauce.
The recipe is simple and uses only a few key ingredients. Beef mince, mozzarella cheese, a couple of onions, garlic, herbs, a little lemon juice, tomato purée and tinned tomatoes.
A rich tomato sauce makes this delicious
The tomato sauce is an essential component of this dish. A rich and flavoursome sauce made from tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs. It’s the perfect accompaniment to these gooey mozzarella stuffed meatballs. The sauce should be thick and hearty, with a deep red colour and a slightly sweet flavour.
Serve with pasta, or courgetti (zoodles)
Serve with your preferred pasta. Spaghetti or linguine is most traditional with meatballs, but the dish will also work with many other kinds of pasta. Why not try it with penne, or fusilli? For an even healthier option, use courgetti (zoodles).
To get the best, melting-middle mozzarella stuffed meatballs, finish the dish off in the oven in a lasagne dish or large casserole dish. Don’t worry, the recipe instructions explain exactly how.
Mozzarella goes in the sauce, too
This recipe uses more mozzarella than you can easily stuff into the specified amount of meat. About a quarter to a third of the mozzarella is dotted around the sauce, which is then baked until the cheese is melting and turning brown on top. It’s absolutely delicious. The result is a rich, tomato, creamy mozzarella sauce full of melt-in-the-middle meatballs. Perfect!
Top tip: after browning off the meatballs, you’ll have a bit of caramelised onion and beef in the bottom of the frying pan. Scoop this out (leaving behind as much of the oil as you can) and add it to the tomato sauce to add a little extra flavour to the finished dish.
To make even moister meatballs than in this recipe, try using half beef mince and half pork mince.
Mozzarella stuffed meatballs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 free range eggs large
- 1 kg beef mince lean
- 250 g mozzarrella cubed
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced/crushed
- 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 stick celery
- 2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- sea salt to season
- black pepper to season
- fresh basil to garnish
- Parmesan cheese grated, optional, to garnish
For the meatballs
- heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add 1tbsp of olive oil and fry half the chopped onion and the minced/crushed garlic until the onion turns soft and translucent. Set aside to cool in a large mixing bowl (you can start on the tomato sauce in the meantime, and start your oven heating up – 180C, gas mark 4)
- once cooled, add the mince beef, egg and dried oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Give it a good mix until the ingredients are well combined
- take a handful of the mixture and flatten it out against your palm. Add a cube of mozzarella to the centre and wrap the meat around it, forming a ball. Work the meatball back and forth between your hands, throwing it so the ball sticks together and is well-compacted. Place the completed meatball on an oiled tray
- repeat this with the remaining meat mixture, until you’ve used all the meat and about two-thirds to three-quarters of the cubed mozzarella. You should get around 12 meatballs, depending how large (or small) you make them. Set them aside until you’re ready to cook them
- when you’re ready to cook them, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Fry the meatballs in batches, to brown them off, then place them in a large casserole or lasagne dish
For the tomato sauce
- heat a saucepan over a medium heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and add the rest of the onion, the celery, the chopped garlic and bay leaves and fry until the onion is turning soft and translucent
- add the tinned tomatoes (and juice), tomato puree and lemon juice and season well with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked down and the sauce is thickening
Bringing the dish together
- heat your oven to 180C (gas mark 4)
- pour the tomato sauce over the meatballs so they’re well-covered. Add the remaining mozzarella cubes, dotting them around the dish. Give it a final grind or two of black pepper
- place the dish in the centre of your oven and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked-through and the mozzarella on the top is melted and beginning to brown. Test that the meatballs are cooked by sticking a knife through a large one at the centre – the meat should be brown all the way through and the mozzarella inside should be melted and oozing
- serve on a bed of pasta or courgetti (zoodles), garnished well with fresh basil and (optionally) a sprinkle of grated Parmesan