Meatballs in a smoky paprika sauce 

This is yet another one of my impromptu meals, made as an accompaniment to a delicious green veg risotto Tristan made when we had a pal staying recently. I was floating round the kitchen trying not to interfere (it’s so hard!) and decided a little protein-based side wouldn’t go a miss. Et voila, the meatballs were born!
I’m staying at my sister’s this week and always like to show them tasty, simple home cooking so decided to have a go again. This time jotting down the recipe so I could share it with you.

I’ve been super slack at writing up recipes recently – or even finding time to be in the kitchen – as I’m now splitting my time between London and Cardiff (more on that in a post that’s been in draft for a month…) but I’m currently up in Edinburgh for a week, working out our office up here, hanging out at my sister’s in the evening which means a wee bit more time to catch up on cooking and my life and blog admin. Hopefully this will be the start of a much needed summer reset.

But back to the recipe! Prior to being vegan I would use milk or egg to bind any veggie meatballs so the first time I just experiments to see what would work. I opted for using flour and almond milk to bind which worked perfectly. The first time I used corn flour, the second buckwheat flour, which is a slightly healthier version and held together just as well.

I use Sainsbury’s own range meat-free mince as it’s vegan friendly (unlike Quorn’s standard mince). I really like this mince as it’s a bit more squishy  – technical culinary term there – and fibrous. It holds together really well whereas other drier minces can take a bit more to bind and I don’t find as flavoursome.

The tomato sauce in this recipe is bulked out with vegetables but you can skip the vegetables and just do the meatballs in a tomato sauce.

You can fry or bake the balls, and can even cook them in the sauce. I prefer to cook them first so that they still have their crisp when you serve them with the sauce but it doesn’t make a difference to the taste, especially once lathered in this seductively smoky sauce. These are brilliant served with spaghetti, chunky bread or sweet potato wedges, or on their own as part of a tapas style meal.


Meatballs in a smoky paprika sauce

  • Servings: 3 (9 large or 12 small meatballs)
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  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 2 cups or meat-free mince
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2-3 tbsp milk of choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of vegetables, finely sliced (I like mushrooms, peppers and courgette)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander, thyme or basil (optional)
  • 1 tbsp red wine or port (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok (unless you’re using a non-stick pan) and gently fry the finely chopped onion. Once soft, add the garlic and cook until browned. Add the mince, paprika and thyme and cook until soft.

Transfer to a bowl and add the flour and milk a spoon at a time each until it’s the right consistency – a firm paste that is easy to shape. Taste and season accordingly. Add more paprika and thyme if required.

Shape into 9-12 balls and cook in the pan the mince was cooked in. If need be, add a little more oil so they don’t stick. Turn and sear them until cooked all over. Remove from the pan and leave on a tray or in a bowl. Either cover with a cloth so they don’t get cold, or put them in the oven at a very low temperature.

Blend the tinned tomatoes until smooth. If you’re making spaghetti cook that now as per the instructions on the packet.

Heat the oil in a pan (unless using a non-stick pan). Cook your vegetables over a medium heat until soft. Add the blended tomato and the rest of the ingredients as far down as the agave syrup. Stir and simmer gently for about 5 minutes until it starts to thicken. Add the wine/port and seasoning. Cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust flavouring if required. As you’ve added soy sauce you won’t need as much salt as you might typically use. Add the fresh herbs and stir. Take off the heat.

Plate up your spaghetti (if using) then top with the meatballs and finally pour the sauce on the top. Alternatively put the sauce and meatballs in a bowl and serve with your alternative accompaniments.


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