Baked Meatballs with Penne in Arrabiata Sauce
You know me: always on a diet, but a greedy boy with a big appetite! Well, no surprise that I'm always on a diet, then! The problem is, most people associate diets with rabbit food, and that's really just not my scene. So when I heard all the gym-bod meat-heads of the interwebs buzzing about this new phenomenon called Muscle Food, I thought I'd give it a go. Basically, they sell high protein products (mostly very lean meat) mainly marketed at those who are trying to bulk up through excruciating gym routines, but also with an eye on those like me who just wanna watch what they eat.
So first order made, I got their New Year Hamper which included tonnes of chicken breasts, steak, and the like. I was also intrigued to see they'd included giant meatballs. I was a bit wary, but a quick check of my Slimming World app informed me the meatballs were only half a syn each. HALF a syn! I'm allowed 15 a day, and there were six of these beasts! For only 3 syns the lot, I was damn sure I was going to find a recipe to use them in.
Pasta seemed an obvious choice (and I always have some) so then I just wanted a sauce to go with it. I was thinking of something tomato based, as I always have tinned tomatoes and pasata in the house as well. My first thought was an Arrabiata, but I thought I'd have a look through my Slimming World Little Book of Sauces first, just in case.... and then it turned out that I already had all the ingredients I needed for an Arabiatta sauce anyway, so that won.... and am I glad it did!
I thought it was a bit of a boring fail-safe, but it turns out it packs quite a kick! I can't rave enough about how good this meal was (only regret is eating it all in one sitting, so there was no more left for later!)
Don't take my word for it though.... get your cook on!
1 pack of fresh extra large, extra-lean meatballs
200g of dried penne pasta
2 big chillies (I used my home-grown cayennes)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200ml vegetable stock
salt & pepper
This should easily be enough for two, but, like I said, I'm a greedy boy! I scoffed it all to myself in one sitting.
- Pop the oven on to pre-heat to 180ºc fancy, or 200ºc standard.
- I started with the sauce. Sauté the onions, garlic, and chillies over a high heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened.
- Add in the passata and vegetable stock, and bring to the boil.
- Cover, and leave to simmer gently for about 15 or 20 minutes.
- While the sauce is bubbling away, crack on with the meatballs and pasta.
- Cook the pasta until just al dente - I only boiled it for five minutes.... it will soften more when we bake it in a bit!
- You can also brown the meatballs if you have that skill. Turns out I don't. I tried, but it's tricky given their shape to make sure the entire surface is done! I reckon as we're going to bake them anyway, it's probably OK to skip this stage.
- Once the pasta is done, drain it and pop it in a large oven-proof dish. I used my tagine as it looks good, and you can eat/serve right from it.
- When the sauce has had its 20 minutes or so, season it well with salt & pepper, and mix half of it through the al-dente penne. Chuck the meatballs on top!
- Pour half of the remaining sauce (so that's a quarter of the original quantity) over the meatballs, then cover the dish and pop in the oven for half an hour.
- Keep the last of the sauce warm on the hob, and then after the half hour is up...
- Remove the dish from the oven, uncover, and top with the last of the sauce.
- Serve immediately
It's a cheap one, this, and close-fought at the top!
ASDA just pinch it from Tesco, with their £4.73 vs £4.79.
A bit of a gap after that to Morrisons at £5.48 narrowly ahead of Sainsbury's at £5.56.
Well the first tweak is that you could make your own meatballs (there's a recipe here) but I wanted to make use of the ones from my Muscle Food delivery.
You could of course change the pasta sauce if you wanted, I think anything tomato based would work particularly well. There's also no rule about baking the pasta, I just quite fancied it. You could fully cook the pasta on the hob and just stir the sauce through.
The sauce was a lot spicier than I expected (in a good way) but also very tasty. Although I thoroughly recommend the meatballs, you could replace them with chicken, pork, quorn, veggies, or.... just nothing at all!
And I guess there's nothing saying you even need to use pasta. I was just thinking American-Italian when I went for this combination, but I have to admit I'd be all over this whether it was served with chips to mop up the sauce, on a Subway-style sandwich, or maybe even as a topping for a pizza (or filling for a calzone!)
Speaking of which.... cheese! I'm a big fan, and I think a sprinkling of cheese on top would just complete this!
What would you try?