Y’all. Ya’ll!!! This is so good. SO. GOOD.
And I’m just gonna say it. Clever. It’s just clever.
Clever and good.
We ate it Sunday night for dinner and I have been chomping at the bit to share it with you all since then. (Yes I realize today is Monday.)
You’re gonna wanna make this. A lot.
It’s everything you love about the perfect plate of spaghetti and meatballs (and a little bit of what you love about lasagna) but easier. And not a thing is compromised. The pasta is still perfect (you’ll read why in a bit). And the meatballs I actually made gluten free, using oats instead of standard breadcrumbs, because I wanted them to be a little healthier (more fiber), and they ended up being the best I’ve ever made…and eaten. The texture was just perfect. In fact, this whole dish could be gluten free if you used a G-free spaghetti… I just can’t attest to the texture because I used 100% whole wheat spaghetti. And if you’re not gluten intolerant or allergic, I HIGHLY recommend slash IMPLORE you to do the same. I know some of you aren’t whole wheat pasta people. I get that. But it’s needed here. The sturdy nature of the whole wheat noodle stands up to this technique, whereas a standard durum wheat ‘white’ noodle just turns to mush. And I care too much about my pasta texture (and yours) to have that happen. So just trust me on this and stick with the whole wheat.
OK, so back to the recipe and it’s GOODness. The pasta is cooked IN THE SAUCE. IN THE OVEN. Imagine how much more flavor each noodle has? The meatballs as well!! So this right here is what you get when you mix dried spaghetti, sauce, ricotta, raw meatballs and some seasoning and throw it in the oven. There’s no boiling, no pre-baking, nothing. It’s all done in the oven all at once.
OVEN SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS
m e a t b a l l s
In a large mixing bowl combine the following…
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (turkey, pork, chicken, veal, or a mixture would work as well)
1 cup quick cooking oats (the quick oats are smaller, so they blend into the mix a lot easier)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk or half&half if you wanna. Anything less fatty than whole milk just isn’t as awesome.
3/4 cup grated or shredded Parmigiano Reggiano, Romano or Asiago cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced (or do what I do and use a microplane and grate it right in the bowl)
1 tsp kosher salt, rounded + a pinch
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
small handful of fresh basil leaves, minced
couple pinches ground allspice
Mix with a fork until the fork has done it’s best, then get in there with your hands. (To check your seasoning, take a bitesize bit of the mixture and cook it in a skillet or microwave so you can taste it. Adjust to your liking.)
Form into meatballs about golfball size… I get about 30.
Set aside. Note- these can be made ahead and refrigerated, covered, until you’re ready to make dinner.
r i c o t t a
In a small bowl combined the following…
1 cup (8 oz) good quality whole milk ricotta cheese (It really does make a difference…)
1 garlic clove, minced (or microplaned)
several ‘pinches’ freshly grated nutmeg
fat pinch kosher salt
Mix well, set aside. (also can be done in advance)
a s s e m b l y & b a k i n g
In a 9×13 casserole dish or as wide of a 2 1/2-3 quart baking dish that you have, add the following…
4 cups marinara sauce – homemade or storebought
1 cup water
Whisk together til fully combined
1 (12-13 oz) package of whole wheat spaghetti, broke in half.
Arrange it so it’s in somewhat of a single layer and fully immersed in the sauce.
Add in your raw meatballs, nestle them in a bit where possible..
Dollop your ricotta mixture with a soup spoon wherever your artistic eye tells you to do so.
Cover with foil.
Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven. Uncover. Bake for 10-15 minutes more, or until the meatballs are fully cooked and browned a bit, the sauce has thickened (no more watery liquid!) and the pasta is done.
Allow the dish to cool a bit before serving.
Remember you have leftovers for lunch the next day when you go to sleep happy.