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Healthy meatballs in a rich tomato sauce

Healthy Meatballs in a Rich Tomato Sauce

May Simpkin
This delicious family classic has had a healthy makeover! My recipes are always nutrient dense and I never add refined sugar and so my secret to creating a rich and super healthy vibrant tomato sauce, that’s naturally sweet, is to include deliciously sweet red peppers. Not only does this add incredible flavour but also counts towards your (not 5…but!) 7-a-day. For the meatballs themselves, I’ve used a lean beef mince without adding any filler or binding ingredients, so they’re naturally gluten-free and much lighter as a result. Served with pasta, this high protein dish is hearty, comfort food at it’s best and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Total Time 50 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6


  • 500 g lean beef mince
  • 2 medium onions; very finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 heaped tbsp dried Italian mixed Herbs
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • To make a Healthy Tomato Sauce you’ll need:
  • 3 medium red onions; finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic; finely chopped
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 500 g Passata
  • 3 large red peppers or 4 medium red romano peppers; finely sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp olive oil


  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil and brush with olive oil or you can use a silicone baking sheet.
  • In a large bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients, kneading with your hands ideally until well combined. Take out a small amount (slightly smaller than a golf ball size) and roll into a small ball, squeezing the mixture as you roll. The mixture should make around 28-30 balls.
    Healthy Gluten Free Meatballs by May Simpkin
  • Place on the baking tray and bake in the oven for around 15mins, until slightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, gently heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onions. Fry for around 2-3mins until they are softened but not browned. Now add the garlic and continue to sauté for around 5mins, with the lid on, over a gentle heat. Season the passata with salt and pepper and then pour over the onion/garlic mixture. Gently warm through for 1-2mins.
  • Now add the sliced peppers and the fresh rosemary. Stir gently to combine and cover. Allow simmering gently for 15mins before adding the meatballs. Continue to cook for 15mins over very low heat.
  • Once cooked, turn the heat off and allow the flavours to infuse.


Serve with any pasta; spaghetti, linguine or penne work very well or with brown rice, along with a mixed side salad.
The meatball recipe can be varied to include the following combinations: Cumin and chopped flat leaf parsley Smoked paprika and oregano Parmesan and dried herbs Handy tips The meatballs can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge until you’re ready to make the sauce. Alternatively, you can prepare the whole dish and you’ll find it’s even better the following day. This dish also freezes very well, so a great one to prep ahead if you’ve got a busy phase coming up.
Nutritional Nugget:
Tomatoes and red peppers, with their rich red pigment, are a rich source of the powerful antioxidant, Lycopene. The good news is that this nutrient is best consumed as part of the diet (rather than in supplement form) and combined with oil, so it’s in the best form to be absorbed by the body. Lycopene is a valuable nutrient that can provide protection against the sun as well as heart health but it is particularly important in men’s health, where it can protect against prostate cancer.
Keyword healthy meatballs