Meatball Mozzarella Pan Bake

#CookingWithHeinens: Meatball Mozzarella Pan Bake

This recipe and photos were provided by Sally Roeckell of Table and Dish and were originally published at 365Barrington.com

After a season of gifting and celebrating, we often find ourselves entering the New Year with our our clothes a little tighter. Though many use this as a reason to pursue the latest fad diet, I’m suggesting we use it as an opportunity to fuel our bodies and souls with food that makes us FEEL good. I’m a believer in the adage that “the cure is in the kitchen.” Eating clean foods with less pesticides and processing is a good start. Organic foods made with simple clean methods will be a step in the right direction. Also, adding as many plants into our menus as possible adds fiber, nutrients and efficient fuel to our bodies.

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of consuming organic food, I’ve gathered some credible research that you may find useful! Click here to discover the upsides of eating organic. 

Today I making a classic Sunday spaghetti dish just a bit differently. My husband is a New Yorker at his core. One of his favorite meals is a good meatball sandwich. Yep, he’s easy to please. So today I’m adding plenty of veggies to my tomato sauce and baking my meatballs in it. I’ll add a cheesy blend and crusty loaves of bread. The kids will want it served with pasta but if I know my husband he will be happy to scoop up those cheesy meatballs with a piece of crusty bread. A glass of red wine and we’ll both, (all) be happy.

When you’re shopping for organic foods, don’t forget to look for organic wine and even coffee. Both grapes and coffee beans can be heavily treated with pesticides.

If you like spicy foods, this dish is easy to convert into a twist on a classic Shakshuka by adding the heat of a good harissa paste or powder and adding eggs allowing them to bake sunny side up in the last few minutes of cooking.

Shakshuka is a traditional Middle Eastern dish with a North African twist with harissa (eggs baked in a spicy tomato stew). I love when recipes can be changed up just a bit to give it a whole new flavor.

Meatball Mozarella Pan Bake with Bread

Meatball and Mozzarella Pan Bake

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, small diced
  • olive oil for frying
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2- 14.5 oz. cans organic chopped tomatoes
  • 2-28 oz. cans organic crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups organic frozen kale, chopped small
  • 1-2 cups organic frozen spinach, chopped small and divided
  • 1 cup organic frozen carrots chopped small
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 lbs. organic ground beef
    (optional: use half pork half beef)
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz. grated mozzarella
  • 4 oz. mascarpone cheese

For Serving

  • Olive oil a drizzle
  • Fresh oregano a few leaves (optional)
  • Crusty bread or pasta or rice
  • Salad with organic salad dressings
  • Organic wine

Method

  • Put the onions and 2 tbsp. oil in your biggest frying pan, and fry gently until softened. Add the garlic, then increase the heat and fry for a few minutes. Scoop half the softened onions from the pan into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the bay leaves, frozen vegetables* reserve 1/2 of the spinach for the meatballs, tomatoes, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and red wine vinegar to the frying pan, and bring to a simmer. Bubble for 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened, and the surface is glistening. Season. When the reserved onions have cooled, add the reserved spinach, beef, breadcrumbs, fennel seeds, oregano and egg with plenty of seasoning. Mix everything with your hands really well, then shape into 24 meatballs.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a cast iron frying pan and brown the meatballs in batches, adding more oil as you need – the meatballs should be almost cooked through. Cool.
  • Mix half of the grated mozzarella with the mascarpone and a little salt.When everything has cooled to room temperature, combine the meatballs and tomato sauce in a big baking dish. Spoon over the cheesy mascarpone, and top with the remaining mozzarella.
  • Freeze now if desired. Heat the oven to 325°F Cover the dish tightly with an extra layer of foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 20-35 minutes cook until the meatballs are piping hot and cooked through, and the cheesy top is golden and bubbling.
  • Let the dish cool for 5 minutes, then add a drizzle of olive oil and a scatter of fresh oregano before spooning straight from the dish. Serve with crusty bread, pasta or rice.

*Freezing notes: Open-freeze in the baking dish until solid, but don’t leave it for too long, then cover with a layer of foil, then plastic wrap to keep airtight or freeze in individual baking dishes in the same way.
The day before you want to bake them, transfer the frozen dish to the fridge. When defrosted, finish the dish as above.

* If you are cooking for kiddos who will spy the green and orange veggie pieces in the sauce and push their plate away, do what good moms do… HIDE IT! Simply take one can of the crushed tomatoes and all the frozen vegetables and puree it in a blender before adding it to the sauce. The carrots make the sauce a bit sweeter which the kids usually enjoy.

Meatball and Mozzarella Pan Bake

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