Simple ingredients are transformed into this homely Italian-inspired herbed meatball bake, perfect for a family feast or cosy night in.

Recipe and styling by Claire Ferrandi

Photograph by Dylan Swart

Herbed meatballs in tomato sauce



  • 1 tbsp olive oil + extra, to fry
  • 1kg beef mince
  • Handful thyme leaves
  • Handful rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • Small handful sage leaves, finely chopped


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • Handful thyme leaves
  • Handful rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • Pinch sugar, if needed
  • 150g fresh bocconcini mozzarella, drained, dried and torn
  • Basil leaves, to serve
  • Chargrilled ciabatta toast, to serve (optional)



PLACE all of the ingredients in a bowl and combine well – using your hands is best! Shape the meatballs into 4cm balls and arrange on a board or tray.

HEAT a big glug of olive oil in a large frying pan with a lid over very high heat. When the pan is smoking hot, add the meatballs in batches and fry, about 1 minute per side, to brown (they won’t be cooked through). Remove from the  pan and continue frying the remaining meatballs. Set the meatballs aside while you make the sauce.


PLACE the olive oil in the same frying pan and place over medium heat. Scrape the pan to loosen any bits of meat that remain after frying the meatballs; discard.

ADD the garlic cloves and herbs and fry until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the red wine, increase the heat to high and allow it to reduce, about 5 minutes or until there’s barely any wine left. Add the beef stock and reduce, a further 5 minutes, before adding the tinned chopped tomatoes. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch sugar to balance acidity, if necessary.

ARRANGE the meatballs in the tomato sauce and add torn pieces of the bocconcini mozzarella in between the meatballs. Simmer, covered with a lid, for 3 minutes until the meatballs are just cooked through and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately, sprinkled with basil leaves and with toasted ciabatta slices alongside.

Tip from the team: For extra flavour, place the frying pan in the oven to caramelise the mozzarella – make sure to use an oven-safe pan!

Recipe originally used on Food & Home.