Baked Pasta with Turkey Meatballs

Okay, not to scare you off with more of the “T” word – we’re talking ground turkey here, and it doesn’t taste a thing in the world like Thanksgiving dinner.  In fact, these little meatballs are so tasty, I wish I had made a double batch and stashed them away in the freezer.  They’d be perfect stuffed in toasted rolls for subs, or tossed onto an impromptu pizza, or simply served over the obvious spaghetti.  Maybe if you make this, you’ll have better forethought than I had.  Double up on the meatballs, you won’t be sorry.

I hesitate to call this meal a casserole because of the bad rap such dishes get.  I’ll just say it’s cozy, family friendly comfort food served up in one gooey, cheesy pan;  I highly recommend it for picky toddlers, t’weens and teens.

Actually, I’d recommend it to anyone who’s just plain hungry.

Have a great week.

Recipe note:  To save a few calories, I skipped the pan frying part and browned my meatballs in the oven.  Preheat oven to 375; coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; arrange meatballs on pan and spray lightly with additional cooking spray.  Bake meatballs for 12 minutes; proceed with recipe as written.
SERVES:  6 – 8

1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 c. fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
3 T. pine nuts, toasted, cooled, and chopped (don’t skip these)
1/2 c. minced fresh parsley, plus additional for garnish if desired
1 large egg, lightly beaten (Egg-Land’s Best Grade A Large Eggs are on sale)
1 t. kosher salt
1 t. ground black pepper

1 lb. ground turkey
4 T. Sendik’s olive oil
1 lb. ziti or penne pasta (Creamette Brand is on sale)
1 c. freshly grated Romano or Parmesan (Kraft Grated Parmesan or Sendik’s Shredded Parmesan are on sale; either would work)
1 1/2 c. coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
about 6 cups good quality marinara (Buitoni Sauces or Newman’s Own Sauces are on sale)
a 15 – oz. container ricotta cheese

Place first eight ingredients (garlic through black pepper) in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine with a fork.  Add ground turkey to bowl and use your hands to combine all ingredients into the meat.  Form mixture into 1″ meatballs.  In a large heavy skillet heat 2 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and cook half of meatballs, shaking skillet, until browned and cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Transfer meatballs to paper towels to drain and brown remaining meatballs in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same manner.

Preheat oven to 375 and oil a 3- to 4-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking pan.

In a kettle of salted boiling water cook pasta until just al dente, about 8 minutes, and drain well.  In a small bowl, toss together Romano or Parmesan with mozzarella.

Spoon about 1 1/2 c. marinara sauce and half of meatballs into prepared dish.  Spoon half of pasta on top.  Spread half remaining sauce and half cheese mixture over pasta.  Top with remaining meatballs and drop dollops of ricotta over meatballs.  Spread remaining pasta over ricotta and top with remaining sauce and remaining cheese mixture.

Bake pasta in middle of oven 30 – 35 minutes or until golden.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous, News | December 3rd, 2013