|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
Versatility is the key in this recipe. Use it as a main dish, a meatloaf mix, or for meatball . Italian-style meatballs are stuffed with miniature balls of mozzarella cheese and baked before being served with a vodka tomato sauce over pasta of your choice. Grated carrots melt into the tomato sauce and help neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes without adding any carrot flavor. The vodka may be omitted if necessary. The sauce works well on its own for any pasta dish. The meatball mixture may be formed into a meatloaf, with or without the mozzarella cheese stuffing.
- Vodka Sauce:
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans
- tomatoes (petite-cut)
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 large carrot, finely grated
- 2 Tablespoons oregano (finely chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried)
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup
- 1-1/2 pounds ground beef (preferably 80/20 ground chuck)
- 1/2 pound Italian-style pork bulk sausage (or Italian sausage links, casings removed)
- 2 extra-large eggs (slightly beaten)
- 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1/2 cup minced sweet onion
- 1 Tablespoon oregano (finely chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 24 (about) small balls fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1-inch in diameter each - see Note)
- 1 Tablespoon oregano (finely chopped fresh)
- 16 oz. hot cooked pasta such as penne, rigati, ziti, or linguine
- Optional: fresh oregano sprigs for garnish
Prepare vodka sauce: Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add minced sweet onion and gently sweat onions until soft. Add pressed garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, grated carrot, oregano, water, and vodka, stirring to combine. Gently simmer until thickened and vegetables begin to disintegrate. Add additional water if tomato sauce becomes too thick. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. While sauce is cooking, prepare meatballs.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a jelly roll pan with non-stick foil.
To make meatballs, lightly mix ground beef, sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, sweet onion, oregano, salt, and pepper until combined. Do not overmix.
Place about 2 tablespoons of meatball mix in your hand. Press a small mozzarella cheese ball into the center of the meat. Form the meat around the until it is completely enclosed and round into a ball. Repeat until all meat is used.
Bake about 25 minutes or until meatball juices show no pink color. Transfer cooked meatballs to the vodka sauce.
Serve over hot cooked pasta and garnish with fresh oregano sprig, if desired.
Note: The small fresh mozzarella cheese balls are carried in the deli section of most large markets and warehouse grocery stores. They come in a tub submerged in water. If you cannot find the small balls, use the larger mozzarella rounds cut into 1-inch squares.