Recipe: ‘Hidden veg’ meatballs in rich tomato sauce

The Simple Dinner Edit, Nicole Maguire
To celebrate the release of her debut cookbook, The Simple Dinner Edit, Nicole Maguire has shared with KIDDO her recipe for ‘Hidden veg’ meatballs in rich tomato sauce.

RECIPE: Nicole Maguire, Simple Home Edit

My family loves meatballs, but searing them and watching them splatter all over the stovetop is my idea of torture. I am all about minimal effort when it comes
to weeknight dinners, so you can imagine my satisfaction, dropping these raw meatballs directly into a veggie-loaded sauce, then popping them in the oven to cook to perfection. There is not a dry meatball in sight (in fact, these are the best meatballs I’ve ever eaten) AND my stovetop remains intact. The sauce is made with a heap of vegetables and you’re not limited to those listed. Those broccoli stalks, cauliflower florets or spinach leaves that need to be used up in the crisper? They can all be grated, shredded or finely chopped and added to this dish. I love the extra boost my kids get from the veggies in this sauce – particularly the ones they would normally turn their noses up at eating!



  • 500 g beef mince
  • 1/2 onion, finely grated
  • 65 g (2/3 cup) dried breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon full-cream milk
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 zucchini, finely grated
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 200 g mushrooms, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 700 g jar passata
  • 500 ml (2 cups) beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 150 g (1 cup) freshly grated mozzarella
  • basil leaves, to serve
  • crusty bread, to serve



Preheat the oven to 200°C fan-forced.

For the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Use an ice-cream scoop to help measure out roughly 1 tablespoon portions of the mixture and roll
into balls. Set aside.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large, deep flame-proof baking dish over medium–high heat. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, carrot, celery and mushrooms
and cook, stirring, for 4–5 minutes until softened.

Add the tomato paste to the dish and stir it through, then add the passata, beef stock, salt, sugar and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer.

Drop the meatballs into the sauce and spoon the sauce over them so they are covered (it’s fine if they are not completely submerged).

Sprinkle the meatballs with the mozzarella and bake for 18–20 minutes until the cheese is golden and the meatballs are cooked through. Sprinkle with the basil and serve with some crusty bread.

The Simple Dinner Edit by Nicole Maguire, published by Plum, RRP $39.99, photography by Jeremy Simons.

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