Maltese Meatballs in Red Sauce (Bragoli)

It’s sadly time to bid addiju to our Art Director Annie Portelli and her mum Carmen, who have given us four amazing dishes inspired by their Maltese roots over the past month.

Today, they share their sumptuous recipe for Maltese Meatballs in Red Sauce (Bragoli), which is made all the more fitting by the fact that, at this very moment, Annie is actually eating her way around Malta! – see Instagram for some serious European summer travel envy!

Annie & Carmen Portelli

Chopping board by Thomas Lentini. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Our art Director Annie in her beautiful home kitchen. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Bragoli is the ‘roast dinner’ of Malta, according to Carmen. Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Maltese Meatballs in Red Sauce (Bragoli). Photo – Eve Wilson. Production – Lucy Feagins. Styling Assistant – Natalie Turnbull.

Annie & Carmen Portelli
27th of June 2017

Today we take a full 360, after going from a veggies-stuffed-with-veggies earlier this month, to meat-wrapped-in-meat!

There’s nothing more comforting than the smell of red wine tomato sauce infused throughout the house on a wintery afternoon!

There are many variations of this recipe depending on which region of Malta you’re from. The Portelli version uses good-quality cuts of veal, and lean mince with some spinach and fresh fetta to ease the meaty load.

When asking my Mum about her memories attached to this meal, she explained to me that this was the dish you’d cook to impress special guests – it’s the ‘roast dinner’ of Malta!

250g top-grade mince beef
800g topside beef steaks
2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
2 Tbsp thyme, finely chopped
100g prosciutto
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
140g fetta cheese
1 cup of raw spinach (large leaves)
Fresh parmesan
1½ cups of red wine
12 sweet red tomatoes, peeled
400g plain tomato puree
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp of olive oil
2 Tbsp of fresh oregano
1 Bay Leaf
½ tsp of fresh nutmeg
½ tsp of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste


To begin, lay out the topside steak and lightly tenderise with a meat hammer. Then lay one slice of prosciutto over the top, along with your spinach leaves and thinly sliced fetta.

Once you’ve created these layers, roll the steak with the other filling ingredients (mince, herbs and garlic) as neatly as you can, tucking in the sides as you go to create a sealed parcel of flavour. Once you’ve rolled the steak to the end and the filling is secure, thread a toothpick on each side of the roll to keep it closed, and you have yourself a Bragoli! Repeated this process for all the steaks.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan and lightly fry the outside of each of your Bragolis and set aside.

To prepare the sauce, in a separate pan fry up the onions and garlic in oil until golden. Add your tomatoes and pure, along with the wine, oregano, nutmeg, cinnamon and bayleaf. Bring the sauce to boil and allow it to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Once the sauce has gained some flavour, place the Bragolis into the sauce, and continue to simmer for another hour or so, until they are cooked through.

This dish is most commonly served with fresh bread, however we have always served it with buttery potato mash, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. This meal really does feel like like a nice big warm hug from mum!

Recent Dinner