Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain in a colander over a bowl; reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid.
Place panko, 1 tablespoon garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper, beef, and egg in a bowl, stirring just until combined. Shape beef mixture into 12 (1-inch) meatballs. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add meatballs to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Add remaining 1 tablespoon garlic; cook 30 seconds. Add reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons basil, crushed red pepper, and tomatoes to pan. Reduce heat to medium; cover and simmer 15 minutes.
Stir pasta into tomato mixture; spread evenly in skillet. Sprinkle cheese over top; broil 1 minute or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil.
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Made this tonight. Thought it was going to be time consuming, but it wasn't. Wasn't sure if it was going to be enough to feed a family of 4. It was just enough, definitely need a side. We really liked this & will make it again for sure.
Have made this twice now, but use regular ziti vs whole wheat. It makes it up to a 5 star recipe with red wine replacing the water and 1 spoonful of sugar to the sauce. Easy enough to have in a regular rotation.
The final dish was okay, but it seemed to take a lot longer to pull it all together. The overall flavor was alright but could have benefitted from some oregano. We did like the meatballs though. As for the pasta and sauce... The amount of pasta (6 oz.) was not quite enough for my family of 4, so I made some more plain pasta for my daughter who wanted it without sauce; and there seemed to be almost too much sauce. So if I make this again, I would make some changes to fit my family's tastes.
Made half the recipe for me & spouse, and it did come together in 1/2 hour but only because I'd made the meatballs in the morning. Added Lawry's seasoned pepper, dried oregano, and onion powder to meatballs for more flavor and used half parmesan in the cheese topping for the same reason. Very tasty and satisfying, but might have been bland without those flavor boosts. Served with the pine nut, spinach, & palm salad. Portion size is large, and we did not feel a need for bread.
I added ground pork to the meatballs as well but kept everything else intact. I'd suggest using smaller pasta (mini rigatoni, small bowties, etc) so that they can really soak up the sauce. For step-by-step photos and instructions, check out my post: http://www.icancookthat.org/2015/06/quick-meatball-and-pasta-bake.html
I followed the recipe exactly and it was just okay. I expected more flavor. Also, the meatballs were still pink inside, so the recipe cooking time needs tweaking. Three stars for ease of making and for potential.
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