Pork meatballs with cabbage, bacon and fennel

The combination of pork and fennel seed is well-known in Italian cuisine; it’s a match made in heaven. Fennel seeds have a sweet and anise-like taste which seasons the pork beautifully, making for a more complex flavour in these tasty meatballs.


  •   500g fresh pork mince
  • 200g bacon, chopped and fried
  • 5ml fennel seeds
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • a large pinch of salt and white pepper
  • 30ml chopped parsley and fennel fronds 
  • 250ml cooked jasmine rice (al dente)
  • a little flour
  • about 30ml olive oil
  • about 16 small cabbage leaves
  • 500ml of your favourite tomato-based pasta sauce
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • 125ml grated Parmesan
  • a sprinkling of fresh basil leaves, optional


1 Mix the pork mince and bacon with the spices, herbs and rice until just combined. Be careful not to squash the rice.

2 Preheat the oven. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions and shape them into meatballs. A little olive oil rubbed onto your hands will prevent sticking.

3 Dust the meatballs in flour and pan-fry gently in the olive oil until golden-brown. The meatballs should keep their shape, but don’t need to be cooked through.

4 Rinse the cabbage leaves and immerse them in boiling water. Refresh immediately in cold water and allow to cool. Wrap each meatball in one or two cabbage leaves (depending on the size). Tip Keep the small core leaves of the cabbages for another meal or press them in-between the meatballs in an ovenproof dish.

5 Add the tomato sauce to the bottom of an ovenproof casserole , sprinkle over half the grated Parmesan and arrange the meatballs snugly on top. Season with nutmeg and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

6 Cover the casserole with foil or a tight-fitting lid and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes to brown the cabbage. Sprinkle the fresh basil over once the meatballs have cooled slightly and serve immediately.

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