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March 2, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Spaghetti with Garlic and Chilli Lamb Meatballs

This recipe will serve 2-4 people. It really depends on how much meat you eat or want to use for leftovers. A packet of spaghetti however, is often more than enough for 4 people. Use less if you are serving fewer than 4.


– 3 cloves of garlic
– Half a fresh chilli*
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup of bread crumbs*
– 1 onion, diced
– Pack of dried spaghetti
– 2 tins of crushed tomatoes
– Salt and pepper
– Oil for frying

500g minced lamb (more if you’re big on meat; if it’s a drastic increase then utilise your numeracy credits/logic and increase the other ingredients)

Dice up the garlic and chilli as small as you can and mix in with the minced lamb, egg and breadcrumbs. Season well with salt and pepper (don’t be ridiculous though, you can’t taste it at this stage so it’s better to go easy on the salt; you can always add more seasoning to the sauce). With very clean hands roll the mince mixture into balls a little smaller than a ping-pong ball. Put these on a clean plate, ready to put in the frying pan in batches. The bigger you make them the longer they will need to cook.

Heat up some oil in a frying pan. I like to use vegetable oil for frying meat – it has a higher smoke point than olive oil, which means it won’t burn and set off your smoke alarm in two minutes. Place the meatballs in to the pan and let sizzle away until you can see them start to turn golden brown around the undersides. Then turn this way and that every couple of minutes until they are brown all over and have no pink showing. I find a pair of tongs useful for this. Dump in the diced onion and stir around a bit until the onion is slightly translucent. Then add the tinned tomatoes and let the pan bubble away.

While you are waiting for the meatballs to cook put a big pot of water on to boil. If you take the water from a boiled jug and put a lid on the pot it will only take a short time to boil. Once the water is boiling, dump in the spaghetti and swirl around with a chopstick or other long utensil to make sure all of the spaghetti is underwater. Pasta packets generally lie about the time it takes to cook the pasta. Spaghetti is done when you throw a piece against the wall and it sticks, or you taste it and it isn’t too hard.

Drain the spaghetti. Taste and season your sauce. If you fret about done-ness, halve a meatball and make sure it isn’t pink on the inside. Top the spaghetti with the sauce and meatballs, and any cheese or herbs you have around. Fresh basil is lovely but often pricey; dried Italian herbs are generally horrible, but use them if you must.

*If you don’t have fresh chilli use a teaspoon of jarred chilli or a big pinch of chilli powder; if you don’t have breadcrumbs blitz up some old bread or throw in a couple of tablespoons of flour, or even rolled oats.


Apparently Italian peasants used to fry breadcrumbs and sprinkle them on top of pasta when they couldn’t afford cheese; they will add a certain greasy crunch that is actually quite satisfying.

You can buy fresh herbs at the Farmers Market at Queens Wharf (by Te Papa) on Sunday mornings for a very good price. The market goes until early afternoon so it shouldn’t be too much of a struggle.

If you don’t want heaps of meatballs immediately, you could always roll some up and put them in Tupperware or a Glad bag in your freezer. Or make some lamb burger patties and freeze them for future hamburger fun.

These meatballs are easy to make and are quite versatile. I envisage their further use in the following ways: in baguette sandwiches; on some couscous with a yoghurt and mint sauce; in a Moroccan-esque stew with cumin, turmeric, vegetables and some stock; or with a fresh salad and some chilli dipping sauce.


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