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Meatballs and tomato sauce to warm you on a winter’s day

12:00am | & Lifestyle

Eating well is one of the foundation stones for good health, especially in later life.

If you can stick to a wholesome balanced diet, with a variety of foods in the right proportions, you’ll have more energy, find it easier to maintain a healthy weight and generally feel better all round.

One of the best ways to know exactly what you’re eating and avoid many of the additives and preservatives in pre-packed foods is to cook plenty of your own meals at home. Older people are generally better at home cooking than younger ones, not having grown up in the ‘fast food’ and ‘ready meals’ era, but some people still shy away from the stove. There’s really no reason to, as many healthy and nutritious meals are quick and simple to prepare, and taste delicious.

This easy-to-follow recipe for meatballs and sauce served with pasta is from the NHS’s Change 4 Life website, which has lots of ideas for healthy and nutritious meals. It’s a warming and filling dish for a cold winter’s day and includes some of your five-a-day vegetables. Serving four people, it takes just 15 minutes to prepare and 35 minutes’ cooking time.


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g any kind of mince (preferably lean)
  • I tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 200g any type of dried pasta, such as fusilli (twists) or conchiglie (shells)
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 pepper, any colour, chopped and deseeded (optional)
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced (optional)


  1. Mix some of the chopped onion and garlic with the mince then shape the mixture into balls, each about half the size of a golf ball.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and brown the meatballs on all sides. Remove and put on a plate or piece of kitchen towel.
  3. Add the remaining onion to the frying pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Add the remaining garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, herbs and (optional) mushrooms and peppers to the pan along with 150ml of water. Bring to the boil then add the meatballs. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. About 10 minutes before serving, put the pasta on to cook in plenty of boiling water, being careful not to overcook it.
  6. Drain the cooked pasta, divide it between 4 pre-warmed bowls or plates and add an equal portion of the meatballs in sauce to each, then serve.

Tips: You could use a tin of chopped tomatoes with garlic or herbs for extra flavour. If you can’t get lean mince you might want to drain off some of the excess fat from the pan after browning the meatballs and before adding the remaining onions. You could serve the meatballs and sauce with rice instead of pasta if you prefer. Brown rice is better for you (more fibre), but takes longer to cook.

• Each portion contains: Energy 1339kj/320kcal; protein 19g; carbohydrate 46g, of which 9g sugars; fat 8g, of which 0.5g saturates; fibre 4g; sodium 70mg, equivalent to 0.2g salt.

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