- 3 lbs. ground beef
- 1 Tbsp. basil
- 1 Tbsp. fennel seed
- 2 tsp. salt
- 16 oz. pasta (I like bowtie)
- 1 cup bread crumb
- 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
- 1 small curd cottage cheese
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese
- 1 tsp. minced garlic (or garlic powder)
- 1 Tbsp. parsley
- 1/2 cup water
Sometimes all I need is a little inspiration for dinner. I know everyone has to have this exact same problem. You have something in the freezer but what do you pull out to thaw for dinner? It’s the same question every single day, right? And if you’re a carnivore like me, you wonder which meat to incorporate in tonight’s dinner. Hmmm… beef? chicken? pork? But how on earth are you going to cook it? And most of all, what’s the easiest way? Granted, making meatballs does take a little time, but only a few minutes! So go for it! This “casserole” requires very little preparation, and the oven will do most of the work for you.
1. Bring a pot of water to boil and boil pasta noodles until they are just al dente. About 15 minutes, time varies with the pasta used (check package instructions). Because once they go into the oven they’ll cook a little more there.
2. Drain pasta and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the beef, salt, basil, fennel (you can skip fennel if you don’t have any, but I recommend it for a more authentic Italian taste), and parmesan cheese. Mix well and form into 15 equally sized meatballs. Set aside.
4. Add parsley and garlic to cottage cheese and stir together until well mixed.
5. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
6. Pour cottage cheese mixture over bottom of baking dish and spread evenly to cover bottom.
* If you prefer, you can swap steps 6 & 7, but I like adding the cottage cheese on bottom to keep the pasta from scorching or getting hard during the baking process.
7. Pour pasta noodles over cottage cheese.
8. Pour sauce over pasta. Pour water over tomato sauce.
9. Place meatballs in a 3 x 5 fashion, pressing slightly downward into the pasta, but not all the way down.
10. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over everything.
11. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350ºF for 45-55 minutes.
Those are some big meatballs, huh? Sprinkle a little grated parmesan or romano on top if you like.
Serve and enjoy!