Baked Pasta & Porchetta Meatballs

By • February 14, 2018 0 Comments

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Baked Pasta & Porchetta Meatballs


Author Notes: Meet porchetta meatballs. They’re seasoned with fennel seed, orange zest, garlic, rosemary, and parmesan, then broiled on a sheet pan until golden and crispy--so basically all of the flavors of porchetta in a fraction of the time. They are delicious served any which way, but here I nestle them up with pasta, Marcella sauce, and lots of cheese and bake them until the cheese is melty and the pasta is a little browned. Marcella sauce is absolutely perfect as is, but for this dish, I like to swap the onion with fennel to reinforce the fennel flavor in the meatballs. The recipe can easily be halved to serve 3 to 4 people, but I highly recommend making the full dish so you can enjoy leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. None of it will go to waste, trust me.EmilyC

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Serves 6 to 8

For the porchetta meatballs

  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from 1 large or 2 small oranges)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed, lightly crushed or chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
  1. In a large bowl, combine pork, ricotta, garlic, orange zest, rosemary, parsley, Parmesan, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix together with your hands until well combined.
  2. Line a large sheet pan with foil and, using your hands, rub olive oil over the entire surface.
  3. Heat broiler and place top oven rack below heat source.
  4. Shape pork mixture into small meatballs, about 2 tablespoons each or 1 1/2-inches wide, and place them on the foil-lined sheet pan. It’s fine if they’re close together or touching. Drizzle the meatballs with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Broil meatballs about 8 to 10 minutes, flipping them once, until they’re browned on both sides and cooked through. Remove from oven; cover with foil to keep warm.

For rest of dish

  • 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced lengthwise into six to eight pieces
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 pound pasta, such as penne or medium shells
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed or shredded mozzarella
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  1. Put whole tomatoes in a saucepan (tip: use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into small pieces once they’re in the pan) and add the butter, fennel, and a few pinches of salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until it is thickened to your liking, stirring from time and time.
  2. Taste and correct for salt. Before using, either remove the fennel and save for another use, or remove, finely chop it, and return it to the sauce.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400F. Cook pasta until al dente (according to package directions) in a large pot of salted water. Drain (do not rinse) and add the pasta to the sauce, mixing well to combine. Gently fold in meatballs and mozzarella.
  4. Transfer pasta and meatballs to a baking dish; distribute in an even layer. Add spoonfuls of the ricotta evenly over the pasta, pressing the mounds down into the sauce a bit. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the pasta is lightly browned on top.

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