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Friday, October 22

Meatball...PIE???

Who here hasn't had meatballs?  Meatball subs...meatballs on spaghetti...even Swedish meatballs...they're easy to make (or find frozen), and have TONS of applications.  I've even used frozen ones on pizza before!!  Gotta wonder though...how many of you have EVER heard of a meatball pie?

Meatball pie is a one dish meal that's sure to satisfy.  Basically, this is a cross between a lasagna and baked spaghetti and meatballs.  Noodles, meatballs, cheese, sauce...it's ALL there!  Seriously folks...if you like Italian food, you will adore the ease and convenience of this simple, yet satisfying, meal. 

Now, I'll say it up front...the recipe I'm presenting uses (GASP) frozen meatballs.  However, it's VERY simple to make your own meatballs, and I'll present a recipe for that as well.  Whichever way you choose to go, the taste for this main-dish treat is out of this world.  Ready?  Let's go!!

MEATBALL PIE

3 large eggs, divided, lightly beaten
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 8oz package dried buccatini paste OR spaghetti noodles
3 cups thinly sliced sweet onion (about 2 large...Vidalia onions are GREAT)
2 tablespoons butter or margerine
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil OR 2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 24-26oz jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (tomato and basil sauce is best)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 pound frozen cooked Italian meatballs, thawed OR 1 recipe homemade meatballs (below)
a few small fresh basil leaves (optional)
some extra shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)

Grease one of the following - a 10 inch springform pan OR a 2 quart square baking dish.  If using the springform pan, be SURE to line it as well, either with parchement paper or foil, and then grease the inside of that.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta OR noodles according to package directions; drain thoroughly.  In a small bowl, stir together 2 of the eggs and the grated Parmesan cheese.  Mix that into the cooked pasta/noodles, coating well.  Press the pasta/noodle mixture into the bottom of the chosen baking dish, building up the sides just a bit.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the onions in the butter over medium-low heat, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until onions are tender and lightly browned.  Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and cook an additional 5 minutes until the onions develop a lovely golden brown color.  Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, stir together the remaining egg, ricotta cheese, the fresh OR dried basil, and pepper.  Spread the ricotta mixture over the pasta/noodle "crust".  Top with the carmelized onions.  If using a springform pan, put it on a baking sheet (if using a baking dish, put it directly on the oven rack), and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove, and spread 3/4 cup of the pasta sauce over the pasta/noodle mixture, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.

Toss the thawed meatballs (or homemade ones, if using) with 3/4 cup of the pasta sauce and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Arrange meatball mixture over the layers in the pan, forming a slight mound.  Top with 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce.

Tent pie loosely with foil, and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until heated through.  Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese, and let stand, uncovered for 15 minutes.  Garnish with the small basil leaves and shaved Parmesan cheese, if desired.  Heat the remaining pasta sauce and serve as needed (some like more sauce than others).  Makes 8-10 servings...plenty for your meal, and leftovers, too!!  This pairs well with a simple salad.

HOMEMADE MEATBALLS

1 pound ground beef (ground chuck or sirloin works excellent in this)
2 large eggs, well beaten
3/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Romano OR Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a large baking sheet.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, blend all ingredients.  Do NOT overwork the meat...you want them blended, but not totally mushed, cause that makes them tough.  Form golf-ball sized meatballs, about 15 or so, and bake for 20-25 minutes.  This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled, and the extra frozen for future use.  They make excellent additions to any marinara sauce.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family does!!  ENJOY!!! 

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