Pasta bake with meatballs

Gary Rhodes' baked pasta dish makes a fantastic make-ahead main for a relaxed supper or family dinner
By Gary Rhodes
Pasta bake with meatballs
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

For the ragu

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 sticks celery, chopped
  • sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 handful basil leaves, chopped
  • 225 g thigh of beef, diced
  • 225 g pork ribs, diced
  • 225 g pork sausages, such as Cumberland
  • 250 ml red wine
  • 500 ml passata

For the meatballs

  • 2 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 5mm dice
  • 100 ml milk
  • 225 g finely minced beef
  • 3 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • flour, for dusting
  • extra virgin olive oil, for frying

For the pie

  • 25 g butter, melted
  • 35 g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 350 g rigatoni pasta
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 150 g mozzarella, drained and cut into 5mm cubes
  • 175 g ricotta cheese
  • 50 g parmesan, finely grated
  • 3-4 leaves basil, torn
  • generous splash extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Tips and Suggestions

Use the leftover meat from the ragu to make a tasty soup or stew. Alternatively you can cut it into fine pieces and add to pasta sauces.

For a cheaper and quicker ragu: heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cook 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped carrot over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 500ml passata and red wine and cook for 20 minutes over a high heat, stirring occasionally until reduced.

Method

1. To make the ragu: heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and cook the onion, carrot, celery, thyme, bay leaves and meats over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until the meats have started to colour.

2. Pour in the red wine, passata and the basil and simmer for a minimum of 2 hours, or until the meat is tender and the ragu is thick with an intensely meaty flavour. If it becomes too thick, add a splash of water. Pass the sauce through a sieve and discard the solids (see cooks note). Set aside.

3. To make the meatballs: soak the cubed bread in the milk and, once soft, mix to a paste. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs and mix to a fine consistency (you can use a food processor if liked).

4. Roll the mixture into small marble-sized balls. Dust them with flour, patting off any excess, and sauté in olive oil for 4-5 minutes, turning occasionally until golden brown.

5. While the meatballs are cooking, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, cook the rigatoni for 5-6 minutes, then drain.

6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

7. To compile the pie: butter a large baking dish and line it with the breadcrumbs. Put half the pasta into the dish, then pour over half the ragu to lightly cover the top of the pasta. Sprinkle half the egg on top, followed by half the cheese and a few of the torn basil leaves. Top this with half the meatballs. Now add the rest of the pasta and layer up the remaining ingredients in this order: eggs, mozzarella, ricotta, ragu, meatballs, parmesan, then drizzle evenly with olive oil and bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is crispy.

8. Once the pie is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave to cool a little before serving hot with a crisp green salad.

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