Monday, October 10, 2016

Mini Meatball Pasta Bake


While I normally don't enjoy being summoned by my kids during a work out (since it is the only time that I watch the Food Network), a recent interruption proved worthwhile because my son saw this Mini Meatball Pasta Bake being prepared by the Pioneer Woman and begged me to make it for him. As a Mom of a picky eater, this was a dream come true so you can bet your bottom dollar that I ditched my treadmill and ran to the store instead. Fast forward a few hours later and this was the best decision I ever made since all three of my kids licked their plates clean. I don't know if this is just a case of an unbelievable dish to serve all kids everywhere-for all future playdates and holidays or if my kids are just getting older and are starting to enjoy the finer things in life... regardless, it is a must-make and is wonderful for the whole famiglia.

Feel free to use a healthier pasta or spiralized option for a lower carb meal. And don't forget to sprinkle extra grated parmesan on top before serving.

Finally, I served mine with a cauliflower pizza. (Also by the Pioneer Woman). This is a no-fail recipe and will be my go-to for years to come.

Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman's Mini Meatball Pasta Bake:

1 1/2 lbs ground beef (you can also do 3/4 lb Italian sausage and 3/4 lb beef)
1/2 cup regular oats
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
1 whole egg, beaten
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (I used a few shakes of dried parsley instead)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 whole medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups hot water
dried basil (a few shakes)
12 ounces, weight ziti pasta) cooked to al dente
16 ounces, fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into large cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together the beef, oats, 1/2 of the Parmesan, egg, half the parsley, and a nice pinch of salt and pepper until well combined. Form into small meatballs (about 1/2 inch) and do ONE of the following: 
-Brown in batches in a skillet over medium heat. Remove the meatballs from the pan and drain.
-Bake the meatballs at 350 degrees for 15 minutes on a sheet pan with parchment paper (I choose this method. It's healthier and less of a pain).

While the meatballs are cooking, add the onions and garlic to a skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, salt and pepper, sugar, and water. Stir and bring to a simmer, then add in the meatballs and continue simmering for 20 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow it to cool. Stir in the basil once cool. 

In a casserole dish, add half the pasta, half the mozzarella cubes, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and half the meatball sauce. Repeat with another layer, ending with the meatball sauce. Cover with foil and either refrigerate for up to 2 days, or bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve piping hot!

PC: countryliving and pioneerwoman

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