Difficulty Level: Moderate
Total Time: 2.5 hours
Serving Size: 4-6 servings
Mini Meatball Ragu:
1/2 lb. ground beef (80/20)
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
2 slices white bread, cubed (crusts removed)
1/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
1 large brown egg
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. crushed San Marzano tomatoes
14 oz. tomato passata or sauce
Salt to taste
3/4 lb. radiatori or other short cut pasta
1-2 cups meatball ragu
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
1 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
Tip: For an easy, time-saving shortcut, use store-bought meatballs and add them to a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat along with a jarred marinara sauce (Carbone is always my go to for jarred sauces). Let simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.
Mini Meatball Ragu
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over low heat, add the olive oil and sauté the garlic for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes, sauce and salt to taste. Stir and let simmer over low heat while you form the meatballs.
In a small bowl combine the bread and milk. Let soak for a few minutes the bread absorbs the milk. In a separate bowl mix the egg, Parmigiano, garlic, onion, parsley and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, pork and veal along with the bread and egg mixture. Using your hands, gently mix all ingredients together until loosely combined. Try not to overwork the mixture. The more you overwork the meat, the less tender the meatballs will be.
Scoop about 1 tbsp. of the meat mixture to gently form the meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Drop the meatballs directly into the simmering sauce. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1.5-2 hours, until internal temperature has reached 165°F.
Tip: This recipe makes more meatball ragu than is needed for the radiatori bake. Freeze the extra to use for future recipes!
Preheat oven to 375°F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream in a small sauce pan over low heat and let simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1/4 cup of the grated Parmigiano.
Once the water comes to a boil, add plenty of salt. Cook the pasta until slightly less than al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven.
Strain the pasta and add to a mixing bowl along with 1-2 cups of the mini meatball ragu. Add a layer of the pasta mixture to an oven-safe baking dish, about 9 x 12 inches. Drizzle half of the Parmigiano sauce over the pasta along with 1/2 of the mozzarella.
Add another layer of each and finish with the remaining grated Parmigiano. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese has fully melted.
Remove from the oven and top with chopped parsley.