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Jamie Oliver's Tuna Meatballs recipe

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Light and delicious tuna meatballs covered in tomato sauce and served with spaghetti. Use tuna steak if you can but I sometimes (against Jamie Oliver's advice) use half steak, half tinned tuna.

  • Prep30m
  • Stand1h
  • Cook1h
  • Total2h 30m

This recipe is expensive and time consuming but if you like the look of the ingredients and you have the time, DO IT! DO IT! Fresh tuna, pine nuts, Parmesan, lemon, herbs and cinnamon (yep, cinnamon) combine to make a phenomenally light and tasty meatball.

I revisited this recipe because I was able to buy half price fresh tuna and I’ve been buying pine nuts in the Holland and Barrett sale, where the 200g bags work out cheaper than at the supermarket.

I’ve previously made this dish with a 50/50 mixture of fresh and tinned tuna. I found the meatballs to be perfectly good but I should say that I love tuna in all forms and I’m not a fussy eater. Jamie Oliver advises steering clear of tinned or jarred tuna.

The original recipe specifies one level teaspoon of cinnamon but I reduced it to just over half as I hadn’t made this recipe in years and wasn’t feeling brave. I couldn’t taste the cinnamon at all so I’ll happily include a full teaspoon next time.


You don’t need a food processor for the meatballs but ideally you’ll have a blender or stick blender for the sauce.

I’ve amended the order of the original instructions. Jamie Oliver makes the sauce first and then the meatballs, which need to rest in the fridge for an hour. I make the meatballs first and get on with the sauce while the meatballs rest.

I simmer the sauce for 45 minutes, rather than 15, so it becomes really thick and clings to the pasta. Ever since my brother mentioned the puddle of watery tomato juice that you sometimes see after eating spag bol, I've been cooking my tomato sauces until they're intensely concentrated. I prefer them this way but stick to 15 minutes if that works for you.

Recipe credit

Jamie's Italy (affiliate link) by Jamie Oliver


Jamie Oliver's Tuna Meatballs

  • Prep30m
  • Stand1h
  • Cook1h
  • Total2h 30m
Serves: 4



  • olive oil
  • 400g tuna steak
  • 55g pine nuts
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 55g Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • small handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • zest / juice of 1 lemon

Tomato sauce

  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion (or 1 banana shallot)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes (800g)
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper

To serve

  • 350g any long pasta (spaghetti, linguini, bucatini)
  • small handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil


  1. Meatballs: Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Slice 400g of tuna steak into 2cm cubes and add to the frying pan along with 55g of pine nuts, 1 level teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Keep turning the tuna until all the sides have coloured. The tuna doesn’t need to cook all the way through but it should start to flake when you press down on it. Once the tuna is ready, transfer it to a large bowl and let it cool for 5 minutes. Keep the frying pan on the hob as you’ll use it to cook the meatballs later.
  3. Add 100g of breadcrumbs, 55g of grated Parmesan, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, a small handful of chopped, fresh parsley and 2 eggs to the bowl that contains the tuna. Grate in the zest from 1 lemon and squeeze in all the juice.
  4. Prepare a small bowl of cold water and set it to one side. Lightly oil a large baking tray.
  5. Wash your hands well then use them to mix the ingredients together until the tuna breaks down and everything has thoroughly combined.
  6. Wet your hands in the bowl of water, then grab a small amount of the tuna mixture, roll it into a ball (a bit smaller than a golf ball) and place onto the oiled baking tray. If the mixture feels too sticky add some more breadcrumbs. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the mixture then leave the meatballs to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
  7. Tomato sauce: While the meatballs are resting, place a large saucepan over a medium heat and pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  8. Roughly chop 1 small onion (or banana shallot) and 4 cloves of garlic. You don’t need to be precise as the sauce will be blended later. Add the onion to the saucepan and fry for 1 minute then add the garlic. Turn the heat down and gently fry for 10 minutes until the onions and garlic have softened.
  9. Add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes (800g), 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano to the saucepan and simmer for around 30-45 minutes until you have a thick tomato sauce. Blend the sauce until smooth (I use a stick blender) then taste and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Pasta: Cook 350g of dried pasta according to the instructions on the packet (reducing the time by 1-2 minutes for al dente pasta).
  11. Meatballs: Once the meatballs have finished resting, remove them from the fridge and turn the heat under the frying pan (that you used to cook the tuna) up to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Place the meatballs into the frying pan (you may have to cook them in batches) and gently fry for around 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until they’ve turned golden brown and are cooked all the way through.
  12. To serve: Drain the pasta and divide it into bowls, then top with the tomato sauce and meatballs. Finish with chopped parsley and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil.

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