Mini meatball pasta bake
This meatball pasta bake is a super-easy family meal that uses a small amount meat but lots of veg. Swap the homemade meatballs for ready-made if you like.
- 250g/9oz beef mince (around 15% fat)
- 50g/1¾oz dry white breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 150g/5½oz button mushrooms, halved
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, seeds removed, cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
- 1 courgette, cut into 2cm/¾in chunks
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 400ml/14fl oz vegetable stock, made with 1 stock cube
- 1 bay leaf
- 225g/8oz dried pasta shapes, such as penne or fusilli
- 100g/3½oz cheddar, grated
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the mince with the breadcrumbs, half the oregano, 4 tablespoons of cold water, a good pinch of salt and lots of pepper. Form into 16 small balls.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and fry the meatballs for 5 minutes, turning regularly.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, mushrooms, peppers and courgette for 8–10 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more, stirring constantly.
Tip the tomatoes into the pan and stir in the tomato purée, stock, remaining oregano and the bay leaf. Add the meatballs and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and lots of pepper.
Meanwhile, half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta to the water and return to the boil. Cook for 10–12 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally
Preheat the grill to high. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the tomato and meatball sauce and toss. Transfer to a warmed, 2-litre/3½-pint shallow ovenproof dish – a lasagne dish is ideal.
Sprinkle the cheddar over the top and place under the hot grill for 2–3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted, then serve.
Ready-grated mixed cheddar and mozzarella is ideal for this recipe, but you could also use coarsely grated cheddar only, or a mixture of other cheeses.