Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked Pasta & Mini Meatballs


This is the perfect cold weather, family meal. It's easy to make it ahead, store it & heat it up when you're in a pinch...trying to come up with something quick to make for dinner. Something that the whole family will eat. This recipe is my spin on the classic Baked Ziti. I added some mini meatballs, because I knew my kids would go nuts for them.
It deviates from my traditional meatball recipe, because I have added some ground pork to these. I thought it would keep the meatballs moist, since they are getting fried, simmered & then baked. It worked.
The sauce is a version of the Tomato Sauce with Onions & Butter I made recently, from Marcella Hazan. So good! I'm a seriously hooked on that stuff. I added a bit of garlic & pureed the sauce through a food mill...the smoother texture goes over better with my kids. But, you can easily leave it chunky...or, even use a good quality jarred sauce to save time.

Begin by coarsely chopping one 35 ounce can of whole tomatoes {I use the San Marzano variety}.
Add 1 cup of chopped onions, 3 cloves of smashed garlic & 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter to a medium saucepan & cook over moderate heat, until the onions are softened lightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes & season with some kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low & cook for 45 minutes.

When finished, run the sauce through a food mill & transfer back to the saucepan.
While the sauce is cooking, make the mini meatballs...

Add a 1/2 pound each of ground pork & lean ground beef to a mxing bowl. To that, add a 1/2 cup of Parmesan, 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons milk, 1/4 cup parsley & 1 {lightly beaten} egg. Along with, a generous sprinkle of kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Gently mix until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Roll out into small meatballs {each meatball is approximately 2 tablespoons}.

Heat a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium, non-stick skillet. Add as many of the meatballs as possible, without over-crowding the pan. Cook, flipping the meatballs around frequently, until golden brown {they don't have to be cooked through}. Continue with another batch, if necessary, until all the meatballs are browned.
Add the meatballs to the sauce. Cover the pot & keep the sauce on low. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the meatballs are completely cooked.


To assemble, begin by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Begin cooking 1 pound of pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until barely al dente. I like to use Mezzi Rigatoni, but any shaped pasta will work.
Into a mixing bowl, add 1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, 1/4 cup parsley & a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Stir to combine. When the pasta is cooked, drain & transfer back to the pot.

Add the ricotta mixture,

meatballs & most of the sauce. Then, add in a 1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella, cubed.

Stir to combine & transfer to a large, greased, oven-safe casserole dish. Cover with foil & bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil & sprinkle a bit of grated Parmesan over the top. Return to the oven & bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Serve with some of the remaining sauce on the side.

Baked Pasta & Mini Meatballs

Serves 6
This is my spin on the classic baked ziti, with the addition of mini meatballs...making it even more kid-friendly. This dish can be split in two & one batch reserved for another meal. Cool the baked pasta completely, wrap well & freeze. Reheat in a 350 degree oven, covered in foil, until hot, about 30 minutes.
I added ground pork to my basic meatball recipe to help insure they would stay moist. But, you can use all beef, if desired. The sauce is a version of Marcella Hazan's delicious Tomato Sauce with Onions & Butter.

1 cup chopped onion
3 small cloves of garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 35 ounce can whole tomatoes, chopped
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese {divided}, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley {divided}
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 pound pasta
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cubed
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

For the Sauce: Add the onions, garlic & butter to a medium saucepan & cook over moderate heat, until the onions are softened lightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes & season with some kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low & cook for 45 minutes.
When finished, run the sauce through a food mill & transfer back to the saucepan.
For the Meatballs: While the sauce is cooking, prepare the meatballs. Add the pork, beef, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, milk, 1/4 cup parsley & egg to a mixing bowl. Add a generous sprinkle of kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Gently mix until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Do not over mix. Roll out into small meatballs {each meatball is approximately 2 tablespoons}.
Heat the olive oil in a medium, non-stick skillet. Add as many of the meatballs as possible, without over-crowding the pan. Cook, flipping the meatballs around frequently, until golden brown {they don't have to be cooked through}. Continue with another batch, if necessary, until all the meatballs are browned.
Add the meatballs to the sauce. Cover the pot & keep the sauce on low. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the meatballs are completely cooked.
To Assemble: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Into a mixing bowl, add the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, 1/4 cup parsley & the nutmeg. Stir to combine. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until barely al dente. Drain & transfer back to the pot. Add the ricotta mixture, fresh mozzarella, meatballs & most of the sauce. Stir to combine & transfer to a large, greased, oven-safe casserole dish. Cover with foil & bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil &
sprinkle a bit of grated Parmesan over the top. Return to the oven & bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with some of the remaining sauce on the side.
Click here for the printable recipe.

15 comments:

Joanne said...

Oh my all that cheesy delicious pasta goodness has my stomach growling! Guess it's time for lunch.

Quirky Jessi said...

Those meatballs look absolutely delicious. I always prefer having mini ones instead of full-sized or giant meatballs. I just hate that they take longer to roll out.

Laurie @simplyscratch said...

I've been craving pasta ever since I picked up the Bon Apetit "pasta favorites" special edition mag the other day! This looks phenomenal! Saving this recipe to favorites!!

Dawn Keebals said...

Can you freeze this?

Alicia said...

Wow- this looks great!! The pictures came out really well!

kate said...

Dawn-Yes, you can freeze this.

Chelsea @ Sprinkles of Parsley said...

It's 10:30am... I'm starving and haven't had breakfast. I have to remind myself NOT to check your site when I'm in such a vulnerable state! This looks HEAVENLY!!! I made your meatball carbonara and it was delicious... this looks equally as great. Will definitely have to try it!

beckymaher said...

I am so chilly right now and this looks PERFECT for dinner! Thanks, you are always a great motivator.

Miss Kate said...

Oh, man. These pictures are so GOOD! If I wasn't already completely in love with this recipe from your writing, the photos would completely win me over again. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend.

Kate

www.katesinapickle.com

Terri said...

This looks fabulous! My kids would go insane if I made this!

kosherpork said...

This looks delicious. I hope you don't mind that I linked to this post with a picture: http://kosherporkisyummy.blogspot.com/2010/11/baked-rigatoni-with-tiny-meatballs.html

Bet Rank said...

This looks absolutely wonderful!! I'm revising my meal plan to include this next week! My men are going to love this dish!!

Louberry said...

How good does this look? Yum! Definitely printing this out. Whew... my mouth is watering!

The Urban Baker said...

I have some chicken meatballs in the freezer and a ball of mozz that needed some inspiration. this is my inspiration! thanks!

Nicole @cookingafterfive said...

Looks perfect for a fall day. Love all the cheese!

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