This is the first recipe I created after entering 1 Player Dad mode, and like all firsts it has a special place in my heart (and stomach). Prior to this, I was bumbling along culinarily with my 1-year-old daughter who had just graduated from mushy meals and tinned toddler food to eating the same meals as me. I needed to start expanding my recipe repertoire as she couldn’t live on a diet of steaks, lamb chops and roast dinners (which made up the majority of my cooking arsenal at the time). One day Esme’s mother mentioned that she had meatballs with her and she enjoyed them, so I thought it would be wise to start trying to make something she actually liked.

I started looking up different meatball recipes online, comparing each recipe, noting the similarities and working out which ones I liked based on the ingredients (simple, cheap, available and relatively healthy) and ease of preparation. This method, outlined in the 1 Player Chef post became the basis of the recipe research/creation method I used to build my recipe repertoire.

The recipe I ended up creating was essentially the combination of two recipes I found online: The base of the meatballs from the Sweet Toddler Meatballs recipe due to their simplicity and lack of annoying onion chunks, and the tomato sauce (and hidden veges in the meatballs) from Spaghetti and Meatballs with Hidden Veg Sauce due to the sneaky extra vegetables that are lying in wait like a nutritionally beneficial ninja in the shadows.

“Wait a second, there’s no monkey meat in the recipe…why are they called Super Monkey Meatballs?” Trust me, it all makes perfect sense in my strange little head. There’s a video game called Super Monkey Ball, which features cute monkey characters who race around in spherical capsules. I used to play this quite a bit on the Wii with my mate Sanit from Spicythaidesign. After my daughter Esme was born and she’d filled out a bit, I noticed a resemblance between her and the main character Aiai, so I started calling her ‘Monkeyball’ (and still do to this day). I even dressed her up as Aiai one year for Armageddon, the local Comicon-type event held in Wellington when she was about one and a half years old (that was a memorable day due to the fact that she poonami’d her outfit and I didn’t have a spare pair of pants for her, so I ended up wrapping my jacket around her legs for the rest of the event).

Esme Aiai

Anyway, without further ado here’s the recipe for Super Monkey Meatballs:


  • 500 g beef mince
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar/honey
  • 1 1/4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced/finely grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  1. Mix all the ingredients together, just enough so that everything is combined evenly.
  2. Roll into balls a bit smaller than a golf ball (you can make them bigger/smaller if you want, but larger meatballs will take longer to cook in the tomato sauce. And smaller meatballs will take longer to roll!). Set aside while you start on the tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 courgette, coarsely grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • pinch castor sugar
  • splash of red wine
  • 2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot/saucepan (since we’re making a sauce in it, I guess we should call it a saucepan). Grate the courgette and garlic directly into the pot (to save dishes) and cook for 5 mins until soft and mushy.
  2. Stir in the tomato purée, sugar and wine, leave for 1 min for the alcohol in the wine to evaporate then tip in the tinned tomatoes and simmer for 5 mins. Continue to simmer sauce gently while you cook the meatballs in the next step.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the meatballs on all sides (do this in batches so you don’t crowd the frying pan). Once they’re all browned, pop them into the tomato sauce – continue to simmer the sauce, stirring very gently for about 15 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through.
  4. Serve with pasta (cooked according to the packet instructions) and top with grated cheese if you like (mandatory when I’m eating them!)

Tips and tricks

  • This recipe serves probably a family of 4 with leftovers, so I usually cook them for my daughter and I and eat the rest for lunches/dinners on the nights I don’t have her (I’ve mastered the art of eating the same meal on consecutive days to save money).
  • Use tinned tomatoes with added herbs etc. for more flavour. I prefer the chunkier style of chopped tomatoes, but try different types and use what works for you.
  • Sometimes after rolling the meatballs I freeze half of them to make meatballs at a later date to save prep time. This essentially doubles the amount of sauce for the meatballs which you may or may not prefer, so feel free to try this if you like. If you are planning on freezing half of the meatballs, make sure the mince you use is fresh, not defrosted from the freezer! Trust me, i’ve tried refreezing these meatballs made from defrosted mince, and the results are pretty funky (and not in the good way).

The photo isn’t the greatest (should have run it through an instagram filter :-p) but the result tastes better than it looks here. Firstly, my daughter likes them, so that’s the most important test passed. Secondly, my friends seem to like them (the last time I made them one of my friends, who’s a bit of a foodie, kept messaging me about how good they were – I think it was a hint to make more for her…). And thirdly, I like them – for some reason, every time I make them I wolf them down much faster than I usually do for other dishes I make. So give them a go, and let me know what you think!