This recipe is one of my super-easy, super-quick, fall-backs, ‘always try to have the ingredients on hand’ recipes for last minute changes or unexpected dinner guests. Penne is a great type of pasta for soaking up spicy red sauces, and it bakes well when paired with Italian-style meatballs, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella cheeses.
An alternative lower fat option would be to replace the Italian style meatballs with turkey. Both taste great and add a nice heartiness to the dish.
4 cups tomato puree
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound prepared Italian-style meatballs
1 cup pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh mozzarella pearls or bocconcini, cubed
1 cup Parmesan, shredded
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 package penne pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1) Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the garlic and pancetta until crisp.
2) Stir in the tomato puree, parsley, and basil, and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
3) Cook the pasta according to al dente package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
4) Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
5) Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the pasta sauce, meatballs, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, and all of the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the consistency seems dry.
6) Transfer the mixture into an oven-proof baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese on top.
7) Bake the pasta in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the top is golden and the cheeses are bubbly. Serve hot.