I would say that pasta, as a food group, is up there as one of my favourite foods. My favourite pasta dish is the macaroni pie that my grandmother used to make. There was something (and still is!) something so comforting about that dish. Pasta is one of those classic comfort foods, that I am sure many of you reading this enjoy.
Barilla sent me some of their products to use in recipes for the family. Barilla is Italy’s #1 brand of pasta, and has produced durum-wheat pasta for more than 100 years. Look out for their classic blue packaging on your supermarket shelves.
I have Barilla products for three different dishes, so I will be sharing the other two in the coming weeks. The first is a twist on the classic spaghetti and meatballs, turning it into a quick and easy Meatball Pasta Bake. I used Tortiglioni, which is a tube shaped pasta, and Basilico – a tomato and basil sauce in this dish.
Meatball Pasta Bake
I used lean pork mince to make the meatballs – I’m following a healthy eating plan, so stuck to a 5% fat mince. Turkey mince is another lean meat alternative. The classic Italian meatballs are made using a combination of beef and pork mince.
I wanted to keep the making of the meatballs as quick and easy as possible – they are made using dried herbs and spices – basil, rosemary, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. I could have used fresh herbs if I had them, but I only had a tiny amount of basil left in the fridge which I used as a garnish. If you only have mixed herbs in the cupboard, use that instead. If you don’t like herbs, don’t put them in. I’m very much a “tweak a recipe to suit me” type of cook, and I like to think that my own recipes can be adjusted in small ways to your personal preference! You could even buy ready made meatballs, or squish the meat out from sausages and form them into balls instead.
I made the meatballs in advance, and kept them in the fridge until needed. Come dinnertime, I browned them off in a frying pan (using a cooking spray, but you could use a little olive oil), and then simmered in the sauce while the pasta was cooking. I then layered the pasta and meatballs (with some cheese) in a baking dish, and browned it off in the oven. Took me less than half an hour tops.
I tore up some fresh basil to sprinkle on top, but you don’t have to do this. I also served it with a side salad. the meatball pasta bake was a real hit in our house – I know that because as soon as it was yummed up, I was asked when we’ll be having it again!
- 500g Lean Pork Mince (5% fat or less)
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsps dried basil
- 2 tsps dried rosemary
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- Low calorie cooking spray
- 400g jar of Barilla Basilico Tomato & Basil Sauce
- 500g box Barilla Tortiglioni
- 160g (30% fat) cheese, grated
- Place the pork mince, onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, dried rosemary, salt and pepper into a bowl, and mix together well with your hands.
- Form into 24 small meatballs. Cover and keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
- Heat a frying pan on the stove, then spray with low calorie cooking spray. Add the meatballs and turn frequently to brown them.
- Add three quarters of the jar of sauce to the meatballs, plus a splash of water. Stir gently to cover the meatballs, then reduce to a simmer.
- Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 12 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking water. Place back into the pan.
- Add the cooking water to the jar of sauce and shake to blend, then pour into the pasta. Mix well.
- Tip half of the pasta into a greaseproof baking dish and sprinkle with one third of the cheese.
- Spread the meatballs and sauce on top of the pasta layer, and sprinkle with another third of the cheese.
- Add the final half of the pasta, and the rest of the cheese.
- Place in a hot oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden.