Holy Mother of Meatball Heaven

i’ve had this recipe from For the Love of Cooking printed out and tacked to my fridge for a whole week, waiting for the right time to make it. the right time was tonite. i am master and defender of all comfort foods and i have to say, this is ultimate comfort food. it combines things i love: meat, meatballs, pasta, marinara sauce and CHEESE. i love pasta bakes and spaghetti and meatballs, so i don’t know why i wasn’t smart enough to put two and two together. so tonite, the holy grail of italian comfort food: Penne Pasta Bake with Meatballs. Make it. Eat it. Bow to it…

There’s a few steps to this, but it’s SO worth it. I happen to have some previously homemade marinara that I froze, so I saved myself some time …

Start with:

Annetta’s (that’s my mom, yo!) Meatballs:
You need:
ground beef
1/4 to 1/2 finely minced onion
couple of garlic cloves, minced (or garlic powder – holla if you’re lazy like me!)
salt and pepper
an egg
1/2 a red bell pepper, finely diced
Italian seasonings (i like the premixed stuff, so what wanna fight about it?)
a smallish pile of grated pecorino romano cheese
about a cup of breadcrumbs (plain, homemade, or italian seasoned. it’s up to you, humble meatball maker)
1 largeish mushroom, sliced and diced real fine

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Mix all this stuff together. Smoosh it up with your hands – it’s the only way. Shape into meatballs. Heat up some olive oil in your favorite pan, and cook these babies til they’re browned and delicious. Put them on a plate and set them aside. Mmmm meatballs.

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(A quick aside: my husband thinks it’s odd that I won’t touch meatloaf with a ten inch pole but I’ll eat the hell out of meatballs. Weird? probably. Do I care? Probably not.) And yes, I did murder that poor meatball in the back solely for nomming purposes. I’m not above self serving acts of meatball-icide. Don’t think for a second that I’m not.

To make marinara, I compile the following:
onion, finely minced
garlic cloves, minced
carrot, diced into very small pieces
mushroom, again sliced up into small pieces
olive oil
salt and pepper
a packet of Italian seasoning mix for spaghetti sauce
1 large can Muir’s Glen organic fire roasted tomatoes
1 small can Muir’s Glen organic tomato paste

i heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. saute the vegetables (minus the tomatoes of course) until the onion is soft and they look right. You’ll know when they look right. In your blender, puree the can of tomatoes. Dump this in the pot with your veggies. Mix in your salt and pepper and Italian seasoning packet. Mix in the tomato paste and stir, stir, stir til no more tomato paste lumps are there. This serves as my marinara. It isn’t totally scratch made, but I love it, and it does well in pasta bakes.

For the rest of the recipe, you need:
penne rigate pasta
more grated pecorino romano
grated mozzarella
bread sticks from your awesome local grocery bakery
red wine

Cook your pasta as directed, in boiling, salted water. Cook it al dente (means not smooshy). Drain. Everyone in the hot tub now: add the pasta to the sauce. Add the meatballs to the sauce. Add some grated pecorino. Mix these things gently. Pour this into a baking dish. Top with mozzarella and bake it in a 350 oven until your cheese is melty. Heat your breadsticks. EAT!

dscf1455it’s not a very attractive picture, but i started eating eagerly before i remembered i should probably shoot it for the blog. :: shrug :: 

heh. I did this after eating my meatball heaven: 

sexy-stewie-griffin-animation

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