Have you ever been asked the question “If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?” My answer more often than not is pasta (although sometimes I lean towards Ramen which is also pasta I guess – would that count?). Pasta is just my favourite go-to food. You can dress it up or down in so many ways. Have it cold as a nice summer salad or hot as in spaghetti and meatballs. How can you go wrong?
My other favourite food group being cheese, it might not be a surprise that one of my top pasta dish is spaghetti and bocconcini-stuffed meatballs. I one up the ante on this one and accompany it with my very own homemade roasted garlic and herbs pasta sauce. It took me a while to master the stuffed part of the bocconcini meatballs because the cheese kept leaking out when cooking. After a few trial and errors though, I mastered the skills and the result is simply AMAZE-balls! Try it out for yourself!
makes 10 meatballs
- 350-400g of ground meat (for easy flavours and because I like spice, I tend to go for a spicy sausage)
- 1 egg
- 3 basil leaves, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 10 bocconcini balls (pearl size)
Roasted Garlic and Herbs Tomato Sauce
- 8 large tomatoes
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 zucchini, finely chopped
- 6 mushrooms, finely chopped
- Fresh thyme
- 1 full head of garlic
- 1 can of tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 tbsp. of olive oil
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
- Parmesan and 3 basil leaves, chopped (for garnish)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a medium bowl, mix the ground meat, the basil, salt & pepper and the egg together. Take about 3 tbsp. of meat in your hand and place a bocconcini pearl on top. Roll the meat into a ball; making sure the bocconcini is fully covered and in the centre of the meatball. Repeat the process for each ball, placing them onto a plate when finished. Cover the plate and keep refrigerated for now.
- Cut each tomato in half and place in a baking pan. Stuff 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs into the holes. Salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
- Cut the top portion of the garlic head to expose each clove slightly (make sure it’s not the one with the centre that holds all the cloves together. I’ve done that!). Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in tin foil.
- Place the tomatoes and garlic in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Once cooked, take out and let cool down for 5-10 minutes. (Your fingertips will thank you)
- Once cooled down, peel the skin off the tomatoes (should come right off), cut the core out and place them in a large bowl. Make sure you retain all the liquids but do take out the thyme sprigs!
- Peel the skin of each clove of the roasted garlic and add to the tomato bowl.
- Now I am a bit hard core and have invested in device (pictured below) that will mash the tomatoes to make the sauce (works well for mash potatoes too!). Don’t fret if you don’t have one, a simple manual potato masher or blender will do. Your sauce may be a bit chunkier and rustic, that’s all.
- Now it’s time to put it all together. Drizzle vegetable oil in a dutch oven on medium heat. When hot, add the onions. Stir constantly until softened and slightly turning brown (approx. 5 minutes).
- Add the jalapeno pepper, zucchini and mushrooms. Continue to stir and cook down for another 10 minutes. Add the tomato pasta and mix evenly before pouring in the tomato sauce. Let it all warm up to a bubble.
- Once it is just starting to bubble, gently place the meatballs. They should be fully or almost fully submerged into the sauce. Lower the heat, cover, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Stirring once about half way through to ensure the meatballs cook evenly.
- Serve hot over a bowl of spaghetti with Parmesan and basil sprinkled on top. Enjoy!