This is one of those big, one-dish family meals that I whipped up with my ever ready stock of homemade marinara sauce. I would always make a big batch of this sauce and just store it in the fridge. It’s good for a quick pasta dish, for lasagna, for my family’s favourite chicken parma, for sausage rolls, pizza…anything that requires a tomato sauce base. Having a ready-made-sauce also means, you save time and hassle when cooking the dish. I also buy blocks of cheeses nowadays, bring them home and spend a bit of time grating them and storing them in zip-lock bags. That way, I won’t have to dread taking out my cheese grater everytime I need some. You might think that storing grated cheese will result in mold quickly, well….that might be true but for my family’s case, the cheeses always seem to go fast before the mold even has a chance to spore.
Baked pasta dishes are subjective and sort of a blank canvas where anything goes, really. No one can say you put up an unoriginal pasta dish unless it’s lasagna…but lasagna is lasagna…this dish is using pasta and for this case it’s penne. But I think you can use any type of short pasta or tubed pasta you wish. Also, I use a combination of 3 cheeses here but there is not hard and fast rule that says you must. You can just stick to one cheese if 3 is a little too much for you.
Making dishes like there means I am done for the day’s meals. Lunch and dinner are taken care off and I can spend that little slot of evening time in between to do some baking if I’m up for it. That’s how I usually plan the day’s meals if I’m planning on doing some baking because it’s been so hard to get creative in that department having spend all my time and energy over my two small kids. I have some of that meatball mix leftover too, with that you can easily convert it to sandwiches or even make scotch eggs with the mix. Leftovers are wonderful when you know how to do it right. 🙂
BAKED PENNE AND MEATBALLS RECIPE
Ground pork with some fat in it (or use
beef or chicken)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (recipe here)
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
1. Put all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl and mix with your hands. If the mixture is too wet, just add breadcrumbs till you have a mouldable paste. But be careful not to make it too dry.
2. Leave the meatballs to sit for 30 mins or so.
3. Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Cook your penne in boiling water. Heat your marinara sauce slowly in a saucepan.
4. After 30 mins, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Shape the meat into balls and drop them slowly into the pan. You just want to sear all the sides to give it a nice colour but you don’t have to cook it all the way through because we are baking it again.
5. After you’ve cooked the meatballs, drop them into the marinara sauce, don’t pour in the oil left in the pan.
6. Cover the meatballs with the sauce. Drain your pasta and put them in a large bowl.
7. Pour the meatball marinara sauce into the penne and toss it around till you’ve coated all the pasta.
8. Pour them into a large oven-proof dish. Lay on the cheese on top, according to your preference.
9. Bake in the pre-heated oven till the cheeses have melted and browned.
10. Take it out, cool slightly and garnish with chopped parsley.