350 g (12 oz) spaghetti
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)
400 g (14 oz) can tomatoes
75 ml (3 fl oz) hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500 g (1 lb) minced beef
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
a knob of butter, for tossing
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic, if using, and fry gently for 5 minutes until soft and lightly coloured. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, the stock, tomato puree, thyme and half the oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix the beef with the remaining oregano and the parsley and season well with salt and pepper. Shape into 32 small balls.
3. Heat the rest of the oil in a frying-pan over moderate heat and fry the meat balls on all sides for 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and keep warm.
4. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti for about 10 minutes until al dente (tender, yet firm to the bite).
5. Meanwhile, sieve the tomato sauce, or puree in a blender. Return to the pan to reheat, adding a little water if the sauce is too thick. Stir in the meat balls and then transfer to a warmed serving dish.
6. Drain the pasta thoroughly and toss in butter. Transfer to warmed
individual serving bowls. Spoon 8 meat balls and a quarter of the sauce over each spaghetti serving. Serve at once, with cheese, if liked.