Though I have an admission to make: despite its ubiquity in the UK I have never actually seen tomato and mascarpone sauce here in Italy. I think they just use cream. Which, in essence, is what mascarpone is (whoever called it cheese needs to go talk to a Frenchman).
Never mind, it melts beautifully into this easy, bung-everything-in-the-pot-at-once sauce.
A final word, before we get onto the recipe itself, on making meatballs. The very nicest, most moist and flavourful meatballs are not achieved using super-lean mince. Nope, you need a bit of fat in there. I therefore use good quality, 10% fat beef mince and a bit of pork mince. About 2/3 beef mince to 1/3 pork mince works well.
In addition, you want your meat COLD. For some reason it helps the meatballs to hold together better. The best, and quickest, way to achieve this is to use meat that is only just defrosted and still very cold to the touch. Alternatively, if you're using fresh meat, you can let the meatballs rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking.
Now let's go.
Italian Meatballs & pasta with Mascarpone, Tomato & Basil sauce
Pots/pans to be washed up afterwards: 2
Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 10-15 mins
For the meatballs
200 g pork mince
400 g beef mince
50 g bread crumbs
150 g Parmesan, grated
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt & pepper
For the sauce
350 g ribbed pasta
2 tins plum tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
large handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
150 g mascarpone
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper
1. Place the mince, egg, dried basil bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese in a bowl, and add a pinch each of salt and pepper. Mix until smooth and very well combined (best to use your hands for this, though a fork is okay too).
2. Roll into equally-sized balls. If necessary, leave to cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Prepare your pasta as per the packet instructions.
5. While the meatballs are cooking, make your sauce: place all the ingredients except for the mascarpone in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Leave for 10-15 minutes, until thickened.