Simple freezable meatballs

Meatballs are versatile, freezable and fun for kids to make. Don't get squeamish about them touching raw meat - just ensure they wash their hands afterwards and that really small kids, who have a habit of putting fingers in their mouths, know not to do this while touching uncooked meat. Most kids actually really like scrunching and squelching meat like it's playdough and the more these meatballs are scrunched, the more tender they'll be once cooked. If you want to stockpile some in the freezer, double the quantities and follow the instructions below.

Serves 4 

1 clove garlic
rapeseed or olive oil
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
500g lean beef mince
good handful of flat-leaf parsley, plus a little extra to serve
65g gluten-free white breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt & pepper

Takes 45 minutes

1. Get a pan on a medium heat. Thinly slice the garlic and soften in a pan in a little oil. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar and leave to simmer while you make the meatballs.

2. Get a large mixing bowl and place a folded tea towel under it to stop it spinning as the children mix. Put the mince in the bowl and snip in the flat-leaf parsley (kids find this easiest with multi-blade herb scissors like these although watch their fingers). Add the breadcrumbs, help them to crack in the egg and season generously with salt and pepper. 

2. Now get the kids to mix it all up with their hands (see intro). Give it a good minute or two of scrunching. You might want to start them off to give it the initial first mix. Next wet everyone's hands under the tap then roll the meat into little balls about the size of a golf ball. Hold back any meatballs that you want to freeze (see below). 

3. Get a wide saucepan with a lid over a medium heat, drizzle in a little more oil then brown the meatballs, turning with tongs, until brown all over (a few minutes). Pour in the tomato sauce, pop on a lid and cook gently for 30 minutes.

4. You can serve them as they are or with spaghetti. Scatter over the remaining parsley before serving.  

To freeze/recook from frozen

Put raw meatballs on a baking sheet & freeze until firm. Place in freezer bags, label with the date and use within a month. To re-cook from frozen, defrost the meatballs and cook as per the main recipe. Or cook directly from frozen at 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 for 30 minutes then turn up the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7 and cook for a final 10 minutes before serving. Heat the tomato sauce separately on the hob and combine both when piping hot.