Unfortunately, the tomatoes available in Britain are unlikely ever to rival the wondrously intense flavour of the small plum tomatoes I had on the Amalfi Coast, so
Cut the crusts off the bread, put the slices in a dish, cover with water and leave to soak for 3-5 minutes. Then squeeze the bread in your hands to drain it. Peel the garlic and chop finely.
Heat a dry frying pan, add the pine kernels and toss about briskly over a high heat until slightly browned. Turn out on to a work surface to cool. Chop the parsley finely.
Put the minced beef into a large bowl and add the squeezed-out bread, garlic, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Whisk the eggs and add to the mixture with some salt and black pepper. Using your hands, blend the mixture thoroughly for several minutes, adding the pine kernels and raisins halfway through. Form the mixture into balls
Put the tomatoes into a bowl, pour boiling water over them and leave for about 2 minutes, then drain, peel and chop up fairly small. Peel the onion and chop finely. Put the olive oil into a deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry, stirring often, until fairly soft and golden. Then add the chopped tomatoes and any juice and stir in the tomato purée and caster sugar. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes, stirring until mushy, then add the meatballs and cook them in the sauce without stirring for another 10 minutes. Turn into a heated serving dish and serve.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.