If there’s one thing I know that my husband, family or friends will say about me it’s that I have a flair for the dramatic in life. Indeed, for many years one of the quotes from which I drew inspiration distilled my approach into a single sentence. I believe it’s also know as Ruckert’s Law.
“Nothing is so small that it can’t be blown out of all proportion”
From time to time that has resulted in me being called, amongst other things, a Diva. I prefer to thing of it as being passionate. When it comes to food and drink it manifests itself in me slightly showing off. Why give people one choice of snack when they come round for drinks when you could give them five? Why serve boring drinks when you can start the evening off with frozen margaritas? Why use normal sized conchiglie when you can use giant-sized conchiglioni? You get the drift…
As soon as I saw these enormous pasta shapes in the supermarket I had to buy them. But even though I had the pasta I didn’t quite know what to do with it. It wasn’t long until my mind was made up (rightly or wrongly by traditional Italian standards) to use them in a pasta bake. Here they’re filled with a rich tomato sauce and some homemade meatballs, then covered in grated cheese before being popped into the oven. It may be a fairly straightforward recipe but this is comfort food, pure and simple. You don’t need complexity to make you feel good.
Of course, you could use “normal” pasta if you wanted and it will still taste great. You really don’t have to be quite so much of a show-off as me. Even though I can almost guarantee that using giant pasta will make eating this even more fun.
Meatball Pasta Bake
for the Tomato Sauce
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 2 tbsp Tomato Purée
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 700 g Passata Rustica
- 100 g Chestnut Mushrooms
- 1 tsp Dried Mixed Herbs
- 100 ml Beef Stock
for the Meatballs
- 65 g Pancetta Cubes
- 300 g Lean Beef Mince
- ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- ½ tsp Smoked Paprika
- ½ tsp Sea Salt flakes
- ½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
for the Pasta Bake
- 300 g Dried Conchiglioni
- 50 g Hard Mozzarella Cheese grated
- 50 g Mature Cheddar Cheese grated
- Preheat the oven at this stage to around 200°C fan (or equivalent).
- Heat 1 tbsp Olive Oil in a large, deep pan then add the onions, garlic and oregano. Cover and cook over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes until soft and translucent.
- Add the tomato puree and balsamic vinegar, stir well then add in the mushrooms, passata rustica, beef stock and herbs. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or so until reduced and thickened.
- Meanwhile chop the Pancetta into a coarse mince then add it beef mince along with the spices, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands and form into 2cm sized meatballs.
- Heat 1 tsbp oil in a second pan then fry the meatballs in batches until brown all over and cooked through.
- Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes less than the recommended time on the pack. Drain well.
- Put the pasta into an oven-proof dish, followed by the meatballs, then top with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the grated cheeses over the top then put into the oven for 25 minutes, until the cheese is golden and crisp.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.