Rigatoni with Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

Autumn screams comfort food, and nothing is more comforting than meatballs and a decadent pasta sauce and pasta that catches the sauce and delivers a punch of Italian flavor. Welcome to my mozzarella stuffed Italian seasoned meatballs, semi-homemade hot Italian sausage pasta sauce with rigatoni pasta. Of course, the pasta sauce certainly can be completely homemade, which I love.  In this case, I had only a two hour window in which to reasonably make this dish, which is why I went with canned San Marazanos.  This dish just will not wait to be made. Let's get to it, shall we?

Sauce Ingredients 
1 pound hot Italian sausage
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
1 rounded tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 28-ounce can pureed San Marzano tomatoes
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with garlic and basil
6 fresh basil leaves, rolled and chiffonade sliced
4 fresh basil leaves torn to season the sauce just prior to service
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic + 1 clove garlic, finely chopped and separated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
fresh flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish

Meatball Ingredients
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried, crushed oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 garlic clove, finely chopped (see in above ingredients list)
12 half-inch cubes of mozzarella cheese 

Add the spices to the ground beef and with both hands, after washing, of course, incorporate the spices well.  Scoop out a ping-pong sized amount of meat.  Flatten it out, about a half dollar sized meat pancake, add a piece of mozzarella to the center and close it up, pinching the sides and roll it into a ball.  Set aside.  When you have twelve meatballs, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to a large pot or high-sided sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add several meatballs, but, be careful not to crowd them; they need room to caramelize. Turn them when they begin to crust up from around the bottom, about three minutes. Gently turn the meatballs and allow them to continue to caramelize but over lower heat. The idea is to not cook them all the way through.  They will finish in the sauce. Remove them and set them aside for now.

Now, to the same pot or sauce pan, add the pound of ground hot Italian sausage and caramelize (brown up) the sausage.  When just about done, add a splash of red wine vinegar or whatever wine you want to deglaze the pot or pan.  Add the onions and garlic once the wine or vinegar has reduced along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Sautee about three or four minutes to allow the onions to release their sugars.  When the onions are just translucent, add half of the spices and stir well to incorporate.  Next add the tomato products and stir thoroughly.  Add the chiffonade fresh basil and stir in.  Allow the sauce to simmer for fifteen minutes.  Afterward, nestle the meatballs into the sauce to finish off.  Allow the sauce to simmer on low for thirty minutes to one hour, whatever  your time frame is. I recommend one hour, but we do not always have that kind of time in the real world.  

Fifteen minutes prior to the sauce finishing, add the remaining seasoning and the torn fresh basil, bring about four to six quarts of water to a roiling boil. Generously salt the water and add the pasta you are using. I used rigatoni, which is large and grooved to catch the chunky sauce. Penne rigate, fusilli and others would be great for this, though many prefer spaghetti, which is quite traditional. 

Once the pasta has cooked just to al dente, about ten to twelve minutes, in most cases, drain the pasta or, use a spider and add the pasta directly to the sauce along with a quarter cup of the pasta water. Incorporate thoroughly and serve. Some folks like to top the pasta with the sauce (never is that done in Italy, however, but I promise not to tell if you don't!) which I did for better photo ops but if it is just me eating a chunky, meaty, hearty and flavorful pasta sauce, I like to mix the pasta and sauce together.  I love it when the pasta catches the sauce and meat. Be sure to place meatballs in a place where they are the star of the dish! 

Normally, I would grate parmigiano-reggiano atop the plated pasta, or, a platter of it served family style, but I decided on elegance and added shaved parmesan and garnished with fresh parsley.  

As always, Thank You so much for your time and readership.  I hope this dish has inspired you to go cook for someone you love!  Now, go cook!

In-House Cook


Popular posts from this blog

Semi-Homemade Pasta Sauce with Fresh Herbs and Fettuccine

Giant Rib Steak with Garlic Cheesy Smashed Potatoes and The Case of the Writer's Block

Swordfish Pasta