Close this search box.

That’s a spiky meatball tomato soup from The Joy of Better Cooking

Servings: 4
Many an Aussie kid who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s scored these meatballs cooked in tinned tomato soup, based on an old Dutch staple, on the regular. The meatballs were made to look like spiky little creatures with the addition of long-grain rice and, once added to the soup, they’d cook and flavour the broth, springing and puffing like magical hedgehogs — or echidnas, to keep the Australiana theme going. This tomato soup isn’t quite out of a tin, but still uses the best processed tomatoes you can find, and the meatballs are made with store-bought sausages, spiked with extra fun bits like currants and pine nuts, making them practically a polpette. It’s a great lesson in letting other people do the hard work for you flavour-wise, so it’s still a super simple soup to prepare, and the taste is just bonza (‘better than good’ in Aussie slang) … or belissima if you’re that way inclined.


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 1 red capsicum pepper, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • ½ cup 125 ml white wine
  • ½ tsp sweet or smoked paprika whatever’s in your pantry
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste concentrated purée
  • 400 g 14 oz tinned good-quality whole peeled or chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock (no added salt, see Tips)
  • 1 tsp sugar any kind will do; just add less if the crystals are finer
  • 1 bouquet garni made with basil stalks, a stem of dried Greek oregano and 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Meatballs (makes about 35)

  • 500 g 1 lb 2 oz pork and fennel sausages (see Subs)
  • ½ cup 50 g finely grated parmesan
  • ½ cup 80 g pine nuts (see Subs)
  • ¼ cup 40 g currants
  • ¼ cup 50 g long-grain white rice
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

To serve

  • Finely grated parmesan thinly sliced basil to garnish
  • A drizzle of the very best olive oil


  • In a large heavy-based saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, capsicum and garlic for a minute or two until the mixture starts to sizzle. Pop on the lid and leave to sweat over medium–low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5–8 minutes, until the onion has softened.
  • Pour the wine into the pan, scraping all the yummy flavoursome bits of caramelisation off the bottom to deglaze the pan. Stir in the paprika and tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the tinned tomatoes, then pour some fresh water into the tin, slosh it around to clean out the dregs and add that to the pan, too, along with another tin’s worth of water. Stir in the stock, sugar and another 4 cups (1 litre) water. Drop in the bouquet garni and bring to the boil, skimming off any froth that rises to the surface.
  • At this point, fish out the bouquet garni. Get your stick blender out and give the soup a bit of a zhuzh. You can leave a few chunks in, or purée until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, make a start on the meatballs. Have a little bowl of water nearby. Slip the sausage meat out of the casings into a bowl, and combine with the remaining meatball ingredients. Wet your palms before shaping the mixture into balls the size of walnuts; they’ll expand to golf-ball size as they cook. Some sausages can be fairly salty, so check the seasoning of one of the meatballs by poaching it in the soup for 5 minutes, then taste and add extra salt only if needed.
  • Pop all the meatballs into the soup and simmer for 35–40 minutes, or until the echidnas emerge out of their burrows and the oil rises to the top, adding more stock or water if needed.
  • Serve garnished with a grating of parmesan, some thinly sliced basil and a drizzle of your best olive oil.


Don’t even think about adding salt to the soup — as the meatballs cook, they will naturally season the broth, in the same way that adding mussels to a bland broth brings brininess almost instantly.
You can absolutely make this with a bottle of tomato passata (puréed tomatoes) instead of tinned tomatoes. Just slosh less water in the bottom to extract the last dregs, as it’ll already have a higher liquid-to-tomato ratio.
Go nut-free by replacing the pine nuts with another tablespoon of rice.
Turn this dish fully plant-based by making the meatballs out of barley. Nutritionist and author Dorota Trupp has a great recipe for these online, where the barley is ground and simmered in vegie stock, then mixed with onion and garlic and baked in the oven to set.

Sign up for regular recipes