Cook this: Pork and fennel meatballs

A while back, in my Melbourne days (as if I am so old), I was introduced to The Meatball & Wine bar. For me meatballs weren’t really a thing, not for any reason really, we just didn’t grow up on them. I still remember my first balls. I went with the pork, an odd choice on my behalf as pork also was not a thing I really grew up on. Pork with fennel, sage and orange. I went with the red sauce, and chose the something vege (market special) and if I remember correctly, it was a whole lot of broccoli. I find the whole concept of the restaurant quite cool really. A restaurant dedicated to meatballs. How underrated meatballs have been in my past.

So, about twelve months ago, after multiple trips to the restaurant dedicated to meatballs, I was still ordering the pork, red sauce and market greens.


Day 2 post meatballs, I’m flicking through a Donna Hay recipe book at my friends, and she states ‘Emma you must try those meatballs’. So, as Emma does, I took a photo of the pork, veal and fennel meatballs with spaghetti recipe. (I can’t remember the name of the cookbook, and I cut off the page number and the recipe does not seem to exist on the internet, in case you were wondering.) I have so many recipes screenshotted and photographed on my phone.

I finally made meatballs, a while ago, for my parents.

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I changed some herbs and the zest, inspired by my meatball adventures. Success and I’ve made them three times now. I am in love.  Thank you Donna Hay for teaching me how to meatball.

Before I share this recipe, I just have to say one thing: WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT JUST ADDING PLAIN OLD PASSATA TO THE PAN WITH NOTHING ELSE WOULD BE GREAT. (I’m not Italian BTW).

Pork, fennel, sage and orange meatballs


1/2 cup breadcrumbs (the original recipe calls for fresh, but who has that much time?)

2 tbsp milk

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

500g pork mince (I generally buy a 70% pork, 30% veal)

1 tbsp finely grated orange rind

1 egg yolk

1/2 cup finely grated parmesan.

1 tbsp chopped sage.

1 tbsp olive oil (I choose to use garlic infused evoo as I omit the garlic from the balls)

1x 600ml jar store bought plain passata (by all means, make it yourself if you wish)


1. To make the meatballs, combine breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and put aside.

2. In a mortar and pestle (or even better, use a coffee and spice grinder: a-mazing), grind together salt, chilli and fennel seeds.

3. Add the salt mixture to the breadcrumbs with the mince, orange rind, egg yolk, parmesan and sage and mix together. Once combined, roll the mixture into balls (~1-2 tbsp in size, up to you)

4. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan  over medium heat. Cook the balls in batches, until just browned on the outside. The remove from the pan.

5. Add the tomato sauce to the pan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the meatballs back into the pan. I tend to the leave the pan on a low heat for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavours to diffuse into the passata.

6. Serve as you wish. I particularly like mine on a bed of sweet potato mash with some pumpkin and greens. Spaghetti or polenta would be great too.

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Happy meatballing,

Emma xo

Want a printable copy of the recipe? Click here.


3 thoughts on “Cook this: Pork and fennel meatballs

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