The Best Cheat’s Meatballs

Though I love trying to make things from scratch, there’s a downside. One day you’re making mayonnaise and sourdough bread and chicken stock and fresh pasta and pickles and pesto. The next, you’re exhausted, it’s Friday and you undo all your hard work by sliding through the Macca’s drive-thru.

Some time ago I subdued my neuroses and decided that a few cheat options in the pantry is ok. Nay, bloody awesome. Thanks to a couple jars of pasta sauce and some pesto, these meatballs will take you more than five minutes but are finished well before you might be saying “I give up, pass me the wine”.

Best Cheat's Meatballs
Best Cheat’s Meatballs

Those that follow along on my Insta will know that I’ve partnered up with a local green grocer – Ziggy’s Fresh – where I was able to pick up almost everything I needed to get dinner on the table with this super easy recipe. Plus it makes a big batch so you’ll have leftovers for lunch.

IMG_8459 2

For the jars of pasta sauce I chose Riverina Grove from Griffith, NSW, which I was able to get at Ziggy’s. It was entirely as delicious as you would expect it to be coming from a region filled with fresh produce and ample Italian Nonnas!

IMG_8462 2.jpg

I consider myself a bit of a meatball aficionado so if you are interested in a much more detailed recipe for classic meatballs in red sauce, I will publish that one soon and – believe me – that one is among the greatest you’ll ever try on my blog. It has become a bit of a signature recipe.

But if it’s quick and easy meatballs you crave at the end of a long day – I most recently made these after entertaining children at my daughter’s fifth birthday party – this cheat’s one is for you. And as the weather lurches ever so slightly closer to winter here in Canberra, it’s the perfect choice.

Emma x

The Best Cheat’s Meatballs


  • 500g beef mince
  • 500g pork mince
  • 500g turkey mince
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tub of fresh, store-bought basil pesto OR 1 jar of basil pesto
  • 2 jars pre-made pasta sauce
  • 1 tub tiny, little bocconcini
  • 2 cups risoni pasta
  • grated cheese which includes some mozzarella, for a bit of stretch
  • salt and pepper to season


  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Combine the three types of mince with the breadcrumbs and basil pesto. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, remembering your pesto may be quite salty. Quantity of pesto isn’t super important here, as long as your mixture is firm enough to roll into balls that hold their shape. If not, add more breadcrumbs.
  3. Taking handfuls of the mixture, roll it into balls slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Place one ball of bocconcini in each one and move the meat around it until the cheese is completely hidden.
  4. Sprinkle the risoni all over the base of a large baking dish.
  5. Place the meatballs in rows on top of the pasta. (If, like me, you did it the other way around and put the meat down first, that will work too)
  6. Pour over both jars of sauce. Half fill one of the empty jars with water, put the lid on and give it a shake then pour over the meatballs.
  7. Cover the meatballs with foil or baking paper and place in the oven for about half an hour.
  8. After this time, take the meatballs out, turn them, sprinkle with cheese and return to the oven.
  9. Bake until golden and the risoni is done. If at any point the pasta looks too dry to be cooking properly, add a little water.
  10. Serve with a green salad and some grated Parmesan cheese.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Oh, this looks like a super easy and delicious pot luck meal.


    1. Hello! Yes, it is 😊 I threw it together on the fly and it worked so well. Let me know if you try it. And congrats on the new book x


  2. Colene Hollingsworth says:

    Hi Emma, heard you yesterday on the radio and my interest was piqued.
    I love the sound of this recipe but I’m curious about the jar size for the tomato sauce. Can you advise please.


    1. Hi Colene – I was incredibly excited to be on the radio, thanks for listening!

      I tend to cook ‘by feel’ which can be terribly frustrating for some but always happy to give my best approximation. I purchased some lovely Riverina Grove pasta sauce (from Griffith, NSW) at Ziggy’s Fresh at the markets. It was a standard bottle so 500ml sounds right but you should be fine with any regular sized jar of tomato based pasta sauce. Not passata though – for the cheats version it has to be an actual pasta sauce.

      Hope that helps 😊


      1. Colene Hollingsworth says:

        Thanks, off shopping. 😊


      2. Fab! Let me know how it goes 😊


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s