Jamie Oliver's Tuna Meatballs recipe

Tuna meatballs with wholewheat spaghetti

Jamie Oliver’s “Best Tuna Meatballs” is a lovely, wholesome recipe with a great tomato sauce that works with any kind of pasta. I rediscovered this recipe in Jamie’s Italy but when I went to purchase the ingredients I was disappointed to find that the price of tuna steak has hugely increased in the last few years. When I previously cooked this recipe (sometime in 2009) I was able to purchase 400g of tuna steak for around £5.00 but now the price has practically doubled. I decided to use half steak and half canned tuna despite this going against Jamie Oliver’s specific instruction to avoid canned fish. In terms of texture I couldn’t detect a huge difference and the meatballs tasted just as good as I remembered.

The original recipe specifies four cloves of garlic for the tomato sauce but I used two large cloves. Blending the sauce is entirely optional but I like to do it as it gives the sauce a nice, smooth texture.


Serves: 4


  • 400g tuna steak (or 200g tuna steak, 200g canned tuna)
  • 55g pinenuts
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 55g Parmesan, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • zest / juice of lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Tomato sauce

  • small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cans (800g) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


  • Any kind of pasta but spaghetti works best


  1. Place a large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Add the onions and fry for a minute then add the garlic. Turn the heat down and gently fry for 10 minutes until the onions and garlic have softened.
  3. Add the tomatoes, oregano, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper then simmer for around 15 minutes. If you like, you can transfer the sauce to a blender, liquidise it and put it back into the saucepan at this stage but it's not an essential step.
  4. While the tomato sauce is simmering, place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Slice the tuna steak into 2cm cubes and then add them to the frying pan along with the pinenuts, cinnamon and some salt and pepper. After 30 seconds turn the tuna and cook for another minute or so until the tuna has just cooked all the way through.
  5. Transfer the tuna into a big bowl and allow it to cool for about five minutes.
  6. Drain the canned tuna (if using) and add it to the bowl along with the eggs, breadcrumbs, parmesan, lemon zest/juice, oregano and parsley. Using your hands (wash them well first), mix the ingredients together until everything has thoroughly combined. You need to be able to shape the mixture into a ball without it collapsing so if it feels too wet, add more breadcrumbs and if it feels too dry, add more lemon juice.
  7. Grab a small amount of the mixture and roll it into a ball (a bit smaller than a golf ball). To make the meatball really smooth dip one hand into a bowl of cold water as you shape it. Repeat until you have used up all of the mixture (I ended up with 32 fairly small meatballs) and then place them onto an oiled baking tray and leave to rest in the fridge for around an hour. (I'm not sure how essential the resting stage is but if you can spare the time it's probaby worthwhile).
  8. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet and bring the tomato sauce back to a simmer.
  9. While the pasta and sauce are cooking, put the frying pan that you used earlier back on a medium heat and add another tablespoon of olive oil. Place the meatballs into the frying pan (you might not be able to fit them all in at once) and gently fry them for around 8-10 minutes until they have turned golden brown all over.
  10. Drain the pasta and divide it into bowls, then add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and spoon over the pasta. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and drizzle with olive oil to finish.