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Mushroom and Mozzarella Pasta Bake with Mini-Meatballs MARIO BATALI

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A stress-free weeknight meal!

ingredients
MINI MEATBALLS:
1 tablespoon pine nuts
3/4 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons milk
5 ounces ground beef
5 ounces ground pork
1 egg (beaten)
1 clove garlic (peeled, finely grated)
1/4 cup pecorino cheese (grated)
1 tablespoon Italian parsley (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
MUSHROOM AND MOZZARELLA PASTA BAKE:
1 pound dried penne
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion (finely chopped)
1 cup button mushrooms (thinly sliced)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 jar tomato sauce (24-ounces, plus more for serving)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pound fresh buffalo mozzarella (cut into 1/4-inch cubes)
Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated, to garnish)

directions
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
To Toast Pine Nuts: In a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat spread pine nuts in an even layer and toss occasionally for 5-6 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
For the Mini-Meatballs: In a shallow bowl, cover the panko bread crumbs in milk and soak for 1-2 minutes. Drain the panko and squeeze any excess moisture out with your fingers.
In a large bowl, combine the panko, beef, pork, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper, and mix with your hands to incorporate. With a 3/4-inch scoop form about 25-30 small meatballs and place on a sheet tray. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes. Leave oven on. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the Mushroom and Mozzarella Pasta Bake: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop penne into the pot and cook 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain the pasta and rinse under cold water until pasta has cooled. Transfer to a large bowl.
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, warm oil and add onions, cooking until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until the excess liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes. Add wine, tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, butter, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat to medium and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Add mushroom mixture to the pasta. Add mozzarella and mini meatballs, stirring to combine. Transfer pasta to a baking dish and top with grated pecorino cheese. Place in the oven and bake until bubbling and crispy on top, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm with additional sauce. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
To Toast Pine Nuts: In a medium sized skillet over medium-low heat spread pine nuts in an even layer and toss occasionally for 5-6 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Tip: Make ahead and store in freezer for a stress-free weeknight meal!

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