Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Easy casserole

This recipe is most certainly easy. Easy and delicious.

I first saw the recipe for Baked Penne and Meatball Casserole several months ago while reading through the website for Mueller's pasta (www.muellerspasta.com). For those of you who are regular readers, it's the same website where I found the delicious roasted grape tomato, corn and pasta ribbon soup this past summer.

I printed out the meatball casserole recipe and saved it in a stack of other recipes I want to try one day.

We had planned to make Baked Penne and Meatball Casserole for dinner on Christmas night. Over the years, my sister and I have made a number of pasta dishes for Christmas night, most notably lasagna and baked ziti. But this year I wanted something even easier and remembered the tucked-away recipe.

I bought the ingredients to make a double recipe, choosing our favorite pre-cooked Armour turkey meatballs and an inexpensive canned spaghetti sauce. I usually make the Christmas night pasta on Christmas Eve so I don't have to do much work on Christmas, but this year I decided to wait since the prep time was so short.

I'm glad I didn't make it in advance because the predictions of a big snowstorm sent my sister and her family back to South Carolina before lunchtime Christmas Day. We had so much to eat at my mother-in-law's house on Christmas Day that my family didn't want the meatball casserole Christmas night, so I saved the ingredients and made the casserole one day last week.

Indeed, it only takes a few minute to put together this casserole, and with a green salad and crunchy loaf of bread, you have an easy weeknight supper.

You can add your own touch to this recipe, mixing in some sauteed mushrooms and peppers or trying different varieties of pasta sauce.

I do have one recommendation for this recipe. The meatballs were frozen when I put them in the casserole, and they were not heated through at the end of the recommended cooking time. Next time I make this, I will let the meatballs and pasta sauce simmer on the stovetop while the pasta is cooking. That way the casserole really should be heated through in 30 minutes.

Baked Penne and Meatball Casserole
  • 12 ounces Mueller's penne
  • 8 ounces frozen Italian-style meatballs
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce, any flavor
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Combine pasta, meatballs, pasta sauce and 1 cup cheese in a large bowl; mix well. Turn into a lightly greased 2 1/2 quart shallow baking dish; cover.

Bake 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Uncover, top with remaining 1 cup cheese and parsley. Bake 5 minutes, or until cheese melts.

* Notes: I omitted the parsley and used turkey meatballs. The meatballs were frozen when I mixed them into the casserole and didn't cook all the way through in the recommended baking time. Next time, while the pasta is cooking, I will simmer the meatballs and pasta sauce so the meatballs will be cooked through in the 30-minute baking.


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