February 20, 2009

Chicken-Spinach Meatball Pasta Bake

1 lb shells, cooked to package instructions
10-12 oz ricotta
4 oz sliced fresh mozzarella

1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
28 oz canned ground tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano or Italian herb mix
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb ground chicken
1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano or Italian herb mix
1 egg or 2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese mixture ingredients. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until softened and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and spices and simmer on low. In a bowl, knead together all of the meatball ingredients. Form into small meatballs. Place on a broiler pan and broil, turning once, until pretty much cooked through. Place the meatballs in the sauce and continue to simmer about 5 minutes. Toss the cooked pasta and the sauce together. Pour half of the mixture in a 13x9 baking dish. Dot with ricotta. Top with remaining sauce. Bake, covered in foil, for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and cook an additional 10 minutes or until bubbly.

My thoughts:
This a meal that was sprung from the need to use up some ingredients. I picked up some ground chicken for 99 cents that on its sell-by date and had bit of ricotta and mozzarella leftover from other recipes that needed to be used up. I also had a bag of herbs that a friend of the family brought back from Italy that I hadn't tried yet. I don't know much Italian but I am fairly confident that the mix includes oregano, basil, summer savory, and thyme. I was really happy with the end result. The meatballs and sauce had a ton of flavor and the leftovers were just was tasty as the meal was fresh. Perfect for a cozy evening at home.