Being that I live in St. Louis I basically had zero reminder that football season has arrived !
(also before I begin to even speak another sentence, lets share a mc-adoodle-doo moment of the noisiest silence EVER for the Giants defeat over the Girlboys…. wahooooo)
Moving on. Football season, which basically means it is indeed time to whip out those fat pants and bring on the bucket o’ wings and brew-ha-has. And now that St. Louis is completely missing a football team (not a total loss) I feel like the real focus needs to be the food (but then again, when have we ever lost focus there?)
And the best part about testing recipes for entertaining all football season long?? You’ll be able to narrow down the best of the best for the blow out Super Bowl Party that you’ll probably never have (or actually I’ll never have, but maybe you’re much more socially advanced than I am). Heres an early pat on the back to handwork and preparation, you over achiever you.
Poached Meatball Parm Casserole. Creating the most tender meatballs with bursts of cheese throughout the sauce. A sandwiches dream filling come to life and an easy no-pain so much gain dish for entertaining.
I have been wanting to recreate a meatball dish (nostalgic of my fathers, and grandpas) that highlighted the meatballs in all of their meaty glory, and when Lagostina contacted me about partnering with them using their 3 qt casserole dish, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity.
I used a combination of lean ground beef & sweet italian sausage, however you may substitute the beef for ground turkey if you are wanting to lighten the recipe up a little.
Be sure to allow at least 45 minutes for your sauce to simmer before poaching your meatballs, this will a)bring your sauce to a perfect temperature before throwing in raw meat, therefore reducing the meatball cooking time & b) it allows more time for the spices in the sauce to meld together thus creating a more flavorful sauce. Bay leaves need a good thirty minutes to distribute the correct flavor (or else you’ll be spooning up a minty sauce). Growing up we would literally spend ALL day at my grandpas house while the sauce would simmer on the stovetop, occasionally sneaking in a “sauce sandwich” when noone was paying attention, anxiously waiting for our pasta dinner. Unfortunately, this is NOT that recipe, as we tend to be a lot more “busy” these days so having a sauce simmer for a billion hours just doesn’t fit into my everyday schedule. This recipe is completed in under two hours, without sacrificing any flavor.
For the sauce base I ended up using canned tomato “sauce” (no flavor added, just pureed tomatoes not to be mistaken for spaghetti sauce or marinara) read the labels to make sure you aren’t getting anything other than pureed tomatoes (or at least nothing far off) since you’ll be adding your own flavor. (so look in canned tomato section, not spaghetti sauce section).
I cut half of my onion into rings because I wanted my sauce to have a little more going on with texture, however chopping all of your onions is a-okay.
If you remember to, remove the bay leaves before adding the meatballs. No they aren’t going to kill you despite what some crazies might say (you’re purchasing bay leaves from a grocery store intended for cooking, now if you are pulling straight off a plant and then consuming completely raw maybe I’d reconsider this), but my reason for removal is that they actually don’t break down very well and can be a little tough to swallow, unlike the basil, so for texture reasons, discard.
And finally! I made my own cheese curds and mixed them with a little homemade ricotta, but I am not about to share that recipe as I am still trying to figure it all out. So my suggestion is a mixture of both cottage & ricotta cheese, see below.
Make sure to use a dish that you can prepare the sauce in on stove top, and then place in the oven when poaching the meatballs, like the Lagostina casserole dish that I used. Seriously amazing, and it isn’t too hard on the ol’ peepers either.
- 28 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 onion, ½ chopped and ½ sliced into ¼" rings
- 2 carrots chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 6 basil leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lb lean ground beef extra lean
- 1 lb sweet italian sausage, casings removed
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- ½ cup panko crumbs
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tbsp california garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ¾ cup cottage cheese, small curds
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
- Beginning with the sauce, in an oven friendly casserole dish (I used a 3 qt, you may use larger, but definitely nothing smaller) over medium heat add your olive oil.
- Once oil heats up add your onions and carrots, let cook until onions are translucent and carrots have softened, about 8-10 minutes.
- Next add your tomato sauce, basil leaves & bay leaves. Reduce heat to a simmer and let sauce sit, partially covered, for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally (and being sure not to scrape bottom of pan).
- While sauce is simmering begin forming your meatballs. Preheat oven to 425 and set rack in middle position.
- First in a small bowl add your panko crumbs and milk. Let crumbs soak in milk for 10 minutes.
- Next in a large bowl add your beef, sausage, garlic, garlic powder, black pepper and soaked crumbs. Mix together with hands and form about 10-12 meatballs.
- Let sit out at room temperature, covered, until sauce is ready (but no more than 40 minutes).
- Remove bay leaves from sauce and then add meatballs to sauce (it is okay if they are touching) and scoop a little sauce on top of each meatball before placing in oven.
- Place casserole dish in oven, uncovered, and let meatballs cook for 35-40 minutes, occasionally spooning sauce over them while they cook (about every 15 minutes).
- In a small bowl add your cottage cheese and ricotta and mix together.
- Once meatballs have finished cooking, remove from oven and forming small balls of cheese mix with your hand, scatter them into sauce and meatballs.
- Place casserole back in oven for another 8-10 minutes or until cheese has begin to soften and heat up.
- Remove from oven and serve with bread, pasta, or a la carte.
*Thank you to Lagostina for partnering with me. These thoughts and feelings are 100 percent genuine & my own.