Spaghetti with meatballs

Serves 4
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The Independent Online

This is not your average British trattoria dish, but you'll almost certainly find it on a menu in Italian family restaurants in the US; the kind of place you'd expect to bump into the Sopranos. You can also turn it into something quite sophisticated by using, say, wild boar, lamb or even veal. Or you can use other types of pasta, such as spaghettini, for this dish.

4 servings of spaghetti or spaghettini

For the sauce
1 onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tbsp olive oil
A good knob of butter
1tbsp flour
100ml red wine
400ml beef stock
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes

For the meatballs

1 small onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped marjoram or oregano leaves
1tbsp olive oil
350-400g minced pork
4-5tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp flour
2tbsp vegetable oil

First make the sauce: gently cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter for a couple of minutes until soft, stir in the flour, then slowly add the red wine and beef stock, stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming. Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs: gently cook the onion, garlic and marjoram (or oregano) in the olive oil for a couple of minutes until soft, then remove from the heat and leave to cool. Mix the onion mixture with the minced pork and breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and season well. Mould into about 28-32 balls, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan, lightly flour the meatballs and brown them evenly in the oil in a few batches. Drain on some kitchen paper, then add to the sauce and continue simmering for about 15-20 minutes, topping up with water if the sauce is becoming too dry.

Cook the spaghetti or spaghettini in boiling salted water, according to the manufacturer's cooking instructions, then drain in a colander. Transfer the spaghetti to a warmed serving dish and spoon the meatballs and sauce on top.

Serve with grated Parmesan, if you wish.

To see Mark Hix's exclusive cookery videos, see http://www.independent.co.uk/hixcooks

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