Meatball Bake

My mom makes the best meatballs, so I sort of think of them as comfort food. I found a recipe several years ago from Weight Watchers that is really easy and holds me between eating my mom’s. I have been making this recipe long enough to play around with it and find a combo that I really like. I love Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic for these, but if you don’t have that, any other Italian seasoning will do. I also sometimes add fennel seeds or fresh garlic or switch it up with panko bread crumbs, but for what I made last night, I just kept it spicy and added lots of crushed red pepper.

To make this recipe takes a bit of time, but it doesn’t really have many ingredients. I knew I wanted to make meatballs, so I bought some mozzarella cheese, because they go together like pasta and sauce. I also bought part-skim ricotta for a quiche I am making, and when I realized I would have a little extra, this recipe was born.

I love ricotta cheese now. It took me some time to get to know it in a few recipes, but after years of a casual relationship, I think I know it well enough to call it a staple in my diet. It’s creamy, has a unique texture and a decent amount of protein.

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So while I knew I was going to make these meatballs, I did not know I was going to make this casserole. It is boyfriend approved (and loved) and easily customizable. It’s a change to the Casseretti that I made at the beginning of the month, because why not break up spaghetti, throw some yummy stuff on it, pop it in the oven and skip the boiling of the water? There is no reason why not, I’ll save you some time from thinking about it.

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I only used half the meatballs I made in this because I wanted to have some for lunch, but you could add them in too, or just double this recipe with another pan.

Meatball Bake

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the Meatballs 
1 pound uncooked 96% lean ground beef
1/4 cup dried plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (I prefer Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Crushed red pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp)

For the Bake
15 of the meatballs from the recipe above, cut into half or bite-size pieces
6 oz. dry spaghetti, broken into fourths
1 cup of water, divided
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, divided
1 cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
Oregano (about 1 tsp)
Garlic powder (about 1 tsp)
A healthy sprinkle of grated Parmesan

Nutrition

9 smart points
262 Calories
Protein 21 g
Carbohydrate 17 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Total Sugars 8 g
Added Sugars 1 g
Total Fat 12 g
Saturated Fat 6 g

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil coated with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, Italian seasoning and salt. Roll into thirty 1 1/4-inch meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, shaking pan every 5 minutes for even browning, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. As the meatballs cool, spray a large glass pan with a non-stick spray. Break up spaghetti and measure out remaining ingredients.
  4.  Cut 15 of the 30 meatballs into bite-size pieces and sit on bottom of the pan evenly and top with about half of the tomato sauce. Pour in 1/2 cup of water and shake to mix. **SEE NOTE
  5. Place broken spaghetti on top and spread evenly. Pour remaining crushed tomatoes and water on top. Season with salt, garlic powder and oregano. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly on top.
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  6. From a measuring cup of ricotta, place 1 tbsp dollops on top of bake evenly spaced. End with a nice sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Cut into 6 pieces and serve.

**Note: If any of the spaghetti is sticking up, it will get crunch and not become tender. I enjoy this crispy texture- boyfriend does not. If you prefer cooked spaghetti (probably like most people) mix the bake ingredients in a bowl bowl first or add a bit more water.

Health and joy,

alex

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