Miss F loves two cooking show: Master Chef Junior and Pioneer Woman. I have tried to get her to watch Barefoot Contessa with me, but she gets bored with it, but I guess I can see that with an eight year old attention's span. As soon as she saw the Pioneer Woman that included this Meatball Pasta Bake, she wanted to make it. I adapted the original recipe quite heavily to better suit it to my cooking style and taste. This recipe was a huge hit with the family. I served it with a big salad, it was a great and filling meal.
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground beef
½ cup grated parmesan
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 pound rigatoni, prepared per package instructions and drained.
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
¼ cup grated parmesan
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds more. Add the tomato paste, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, basil, parsley, oregano and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low. Let the sauce simmer while you prepare the meatballs.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Stir together the beef, parmesan, breadcrumbs and egg. Grease two 24 cup mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Scoop the meatball mixture using a heaping teaspoon, roll into a ball and place into the muffin tin. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Toss the prepared pasta with the tomato sauce. Grease a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the pasta into the dish. Add half of the mozzarella and half of the meatballs to the dish. Top with the remaining pasta. Nestle the remaining mozzarella and meatballs into the pasta. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 5 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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