Spinach and pine nut vegetarian meatballs, with aubergine caponata and herby lemon fregola



Fresh and crunchy; perfect for an alfresco lunch.


For the caponata

1 small aubergine, cut into thumb-size pieces
Oil, for cooking
½ medium red onion, chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
1 medium red pepper, cut into thumb-size pieces

2 cloves garlic, chopped
Glug of red wine vinegar
1 tbsp tomato purée
40g pitted noccelarra olives, chopped
40g capers, drained and chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp thyme, chopped
Good handful of basil, chopped, plus some whole leaves to garnish

For the meatballs

1 x 300g pack Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages, crumbled
60g baby spinach, chopped
50g toasted pine nuts, chopped
20g breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch of fresh thyme
Tiny pinch of smoked paprika
1 tbsp olive oil

For the fregola

250g raw fregola, or giant couscous
Zest of 1 and juice of ½ lemon
5-6 mint leaves, chopped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle


Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Place the aubergine in a bowl, drizzle with about a tablespoon of oil and season. Lay on a baking tray and cook for 10 minutes until browned and soft.

Add another tablespoon of oil to a hot frying pan and sweat the red onion and celery for a few minutes.

Add the red pepper and garlic and flash-fry for a few minutes to soften and colour, then add the red wine vinegar, tomato purée, olives, capers, tinned tomatoes, garlic and thyme.

Simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes and add a splash of water if you need to.

Place all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Roll into balls each weighing about 15g (the mixture should make 30). Set aside.

Cook the fregola (or giant couscous) in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Drain and mix in the lemon zest and juice, mint, parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste and set aside while you cook the meatballs.

Add a splash of oil to a hot frying pan and quickly fry the meatballs, in batches if necessary, to brown them. Drain in a sieve or colander to remove any excess oil, then place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the cooked aubergine and chopped basil to the caponata and season.

When the meatballs are cooked, serve with the fregola and caponata, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves.

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