The Best Tuna Meatballs

Cinnamon and…tuna?  You better believe it!  I think of cinnamon often but rarely do I think of it and tuna at the same time.  Cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon toast.  Cinnamon and oatmeal.  Sure.  But cinnamon tuna?

Jamie Oliver has a recipe in his cookbook, Jamie’s Italy, called Le Migliori Polpette di Tonno (The Best Tuna Meatballs) that combines these two flavors and the result is out-of-this-world good.

As an aside, whenever a recipe claims it is the best, the skeptic in me has to find out for myself.  So, I set out to make these “migliori” meatballs and believe me when I say that they are indeed the best tuna meatballs and dangerously close to the best meat flavored meatballs I have ever had.  Jamie says they can be served with spaghetti or linguine but we ate ours with a side of sautéed spinach and a Mediterranean coca.  What’s a coca?  Stay tuned…

The finished product

Le Migliori Polpette di Tonno (The Best Tuna Meatballs)

Jamie Oliver – Jamie’s Italy


For the tomato sauce:

Olive oil

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 14-oz. cans of good-quality plum tomatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

red wine vinegar

a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped

For the meatballs:

14 oz. fresh top-quality ahi tuna (do not use canned tuna!)

olive oil

2 oz. pine nuts

1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 3/4 cups stale breadcrumbs

2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan

2 eggs

zest and juice of 1 lemon


First make your sauce. Place a large pan on the heat, add a good glug of olive oil, your onion and garlic, and fry slowly for 10 or so minutes, until soft. Add your oregano, the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, then blend until smooth. Taste, it might need a tiny swig of red wine vinegar or some extra seasoning.

While the tomatoes are simmering, chop the tuna up into 1-inch dice. Pour a good couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a large frying pan and place on the heat. Add the tuna to the pan with the pine nuts and cinnamon. Season lightly with salt and pepper and fry for a minute or so to cook the tuna on all sides and toast the pine nuts. Remove from the heat and put the mixture into a bowl.

Allow to cool down for 5 minutes, then add the oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, lemon zest, and juice to the bowl. Using your hands, really scrunch and mix the flavors into the tuna, then divide the mixture and squeeze it into meatballs slightly smaller than a golf ball. If you dip one of your hands in water while shaping, you’ll get a nice smooth surface on the meatball. If the mixture’s very sticky, add a few more breadcrumbs. Keep the meatballs around the same size and place them on an oiled tray, then put them in the fridge for an hour to let them rest.

Put the pan you fried the tuna in back on the heat with a little olive oil. Add your meatballs to the pan and jiggle them about until they’re golden brown all over. You might want to do them in batches- when they’re done, add them to the tomato sauce, divide between your plates, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and drizzle with good olive oil. Great served with spaghetti or linguine.


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Filed under Entrees, Seafood

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