Cheesy Italian Meatballs

Cheesy Italian Meatballs

Cheesy Italian Meatballs

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Cheesy Italian Meatballs are tender flavourful beef meatballs nestled and baked in a rustic tomato sauce and topped with plenty of cheese for a delicious family-style meal. These meatballs are great over pasta, but my favourite is simply serving them with toasted bread to sop up the amazing sauce.

Let’s talk meatballs! Beef meatballs are great, but adding Italian sausage makes them fantastic. Adding ground Italian sausage adds all the wonderful flavours of the sausage like fennel, oregano and basil, plus it adds pork and a little bit of fat. The combination makes a superb meatball and the same theory applies to meat sauce.

Meatball tips: 
-Use a cookie scoop to portion the meatballs so they are the same size and cook evenly.
-Use a dab of water in the palm of your hand when rolling the meatballs. The water prevents the meatballs from sticking to your hands.
-Don’t over-mix the meat.
-Brown on all sides to get the most flavour.

The sauce couldn’t be more simple. Crushed canned tomatoes married with herbs, wine and broth. But what makes it great is the gentle simmering reduction of it with the meatballs while the dish is baking. The tomatoes reduce to just the right consistency and get flavoured from the juices from the meatballs. Top it all off with a generous handful of cheese and you’ve got a great meal the whole family will love.

Author:  Compelled to Cook

 

Cheesy Italian Meatballs
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Cheesy Italian Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs

  • 16 ounces lean ground beef
  • 6-8 ounces mild Italian sausage
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

Sauce

  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 20 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Meatballs

  • Add all ingredients except olive oil to a large bowl. Mix gently with a wooden spoon or clean hands until combined well. Scoop meatballs onto a clean tray using a 2 tbsp scoop. With lightly dampened hands roll meatballs smooth.
  • Heat oil in an oven-safe skillet and add meatballs in a single layer. Cook meatballs until browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove to a clean plate and set aside.

Sauce

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Add diced onion to the same skillet as the meatballs and sauté for several minutes until starting to soften. Add minced garlic and continue to cook for an additional minute.
  • Add white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any cooked bits on the bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth and simmer liquid for about 2 minutes to reduce slightly.
  • Add tomatoes, oregano, paprika, and chili flakes. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  • Add meatballs by tucking them into the sauce. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, stir and bake for another 20 minutes.
  • Stir once more and top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted, 5-10 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped Italian parsley if desired and serve with pasta or crusty bread.

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Sausage and Fennel Cast-Iron Pizza

Sausage and Fennel Cast-Iron Pizza

Sausage and Fennel Cast-Iron Pizza

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Sausage and Fennel Cast Iron Pizza baked hot and bubbly and garnished with fennel fronds.

I say start the new year with pizza! Yes, that’s right, crispy, cheesy, flavour-packed Sausage and Fennel Cast-Iron Pizza. We can not make just any pizza, it truly needs to be a cast-iron pizza to start the new year right. It creates the best golden and crisp underside that you’ll ever create at home, and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been making all your pizzas this way. Most new year resolutions include some form of healthy eating, but I think the new year (because it’s gonna be great) deserves full-on, carefree, in your face deliciousness. The sausage and fennel combination has not only become my new favourite, cooking it in a cast-iron pan tips it over the edge of my pizza nirvana. So move over plain ol’ pepperoni pizza… grown-up pizza just walked in.

A cast iron skillet full of of ingredients for Sausage and Fennel Cast Iron Pizza.
Pizza dough, marinara sauce and fennel ready for Sausage and Fennel Cast Iron Pizza.

With the new year upon us, we have no choice but to be hopeful for a more user-friendly year. Even though I can consider 2020 a good year, it hasn’t been without its frustrations, and for many people, it has been a year of hardship and heartache. While we can’t eat cheesy, sausage laden pizza all the time, it’s a good reminder to enjoy a few of the simpler things that we can. It’s also great fun to create homemade pizza at home with loved ones lending a helping hand.

All the best in 2021, let’s eat!

Sausage and Fennel Cast Iron Pizza garnished with fennel fronds and cut into slices on a black cutting board.

Author:  Compelled to Cook

 

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Sausage and Fennel Cast Iron Pizza garnished with fennel fronds and cut into slices on a black cutting board.
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Sausage and Fennel Cast-Iron Pizza

Course Main Course
Keyword baked, cast iron, cast iron pizza, fennel, garlic, Italian sausage, mozzerella, olive oil, pizza, pizza dough
Cook Time 14 minutes
Resting time 5 minutes
Servings 2 people

Ingredients

  • 8-10 ounces pizza dough homemade or store-bought
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage about 2 links, casing removed
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • 1/3 cup marinara sauce homemade or store bought
  • 3 ounces shredded mozzarella about 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced plus fronds for garnish
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Set oven rack to its uppermost position. Preheat oven to 475°F.
  • Drizzle room temperature pizza dough with 1 tbsp olive oil and press out to a 10" round. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  • Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a 10" cast-iron skillet. Add Italian sausage and cook over medium, breaking up any large pieces. Once cooked and slightly crisp remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  • With the heat still on medium/low, immediately lay pizza dough in the pan, stretching out to the edges using a spatula or spoon if necessary. Top dough with marinara, then mozzarella, fennel, garlic and sausage. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and check the underside which should be starting to brown and crisp. Transfer pan to oven and bake until bubbling, about 10-14 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with red pepper flakes, and fennel fronds or fresh basil. Lift out of the pan and cut into wedges and serve.

Notes

-The dough will press out better on a wooden surface such as a cutting board as opposed to granite or super-smooth surfaces.
-I prefer a thinner crust and opt for 8 ounces of dough vs 10.  It is 10 ounces pictured in the blog.
-Makes one 10" pizza, however, a 12" cast-iron skillet would work too, just use the 10 ounces of dough.  There's plenty of topping, so there's no need to adjust unless you'd like more cheese.
-The original recipe from Bon Appétit suggests garnishing with fresh basil, however, I enjoy using fresh fennel fronds instead, but it's a matter of preference and both are delicious. 

Meaty Baked Pasta

Meaty Baked Pasta

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Well, baked pasta is far from anything new.  This little version is my own yet very similar to many that are out there.  It’s more of a reminder of how wonderful a baked pasta can be.  There are a few steps involved so I wouldn’t call it the best weeknight meal.  However, Meaty Baked Pasta is just what the family calls for on the weekend.  

With this pasta casserole, you will find a meaty sauce that includes ground beef and Italian sausage, a light and creamy ricotta cheese layer that helps to balance the acid in the tomato sauce.  More sauce hugged pasta with chunks of tomato that is broiled oozy with mozzarella and parmesan.  It’s the kind of dish you know you should stop eating, but just can’t.

It serves many with even a few leftovers.  If planning ahead, you may want to assemble in two casserole dishes, bake one and freeze the other for a later meal when time is not your friend. 

Meaty Baked Pasta is homey, satisfying and best of all cheesy!  It’s not diet friendly, so I won’t pretend that it is.  Everything in moderation, right?  Enjoy!

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Meaty Baked Pasta is hot and cheesy from the oven in a blue casserole dish with handles. There is a serving spoon half tucked into the pasta. The dish rests on a cork pot holder that is draped with a white and navy towel. Fresh basil sits in the background.
Meaty Baked Pasta
Print Recipe
    Servings Prep Time
    8-10 people 40 minutes
    Cook Time Passive Time
    40 minutes 5 minutes
    Servings Prep Time
    8-10 people 40 minutes
    Cook Time Passive Time
    40 minutes 5 minutes
    Meaty Baked Pasta is hot and cheesy from the oven in a blue casserole dish with handles. There is a serving spoon half tucked into the pasta. The dish rests on a cork pot holder that is draped with a white and navy towel. Fresh basil sits in the background.
    Meaty Baked Pasta
    Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      8-10 people 40 minutes
      Cook Time Passive Time
      40 minutes 5 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      8-10 people 40 minutes
      Cook Time Passive Time
      40 minutes 5 minutes
      Ingredients
      Servings: people
      Instructions
      1. Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften, stirring often.
      2. Add ground beef and Italian sausage. Cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking apart any large chunks and stirring often. Dab out any excess fat with a paper towel.
      3. To the meat add marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and chili flakes.
      4. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 20- 25 minutes to meld flavours.
      5. While meat sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions using well-salted water. (about 1 tbsp regular salt to 4 litres of water). Drain pasta and set aside.
      6. Preheat oven to 350℉.
      7. In a small bowl stir together ricotta, half of the mozzarella, half of the parmesan, dried basil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
      8. Lightly spray a 9"x13" casserole dish with non stick spray. Add half the cooked pasta and half of the meat sauce to the casserole dish. Stir to combine. Spread with ricotta cheese mixture.
      9. To the pot with the remaining pasta add remaining meat sauce. Stir to combine and pour over ricotta cheese layer. Top with remaining half of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
      10. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until bubbly. Broil for 2-3 to blister the cheese. Remove and allow to rest 3-5 minutes prior to serving.

      Rustic Potato and Sausage Soup

      Rustic Potato and Sausage Soup

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      The new year is upon us…

      Many of us are thinking of eating healthier, and I’m a firm believer that eating well and eating foods you enjoy should go hand in hand. Rustic Potato and Sausage Soup is guilt-free comfort food that’s loaded with kale and vegetables.  It’s a homey soup that’s warming and hearty with a rich tomato laced chicken broth, tender baby potatoes, Italian sausage and vegetables. Paprika, garlic, and fresh herbs give added depth of flavour to this rustic, chunky soup. 

      Healthy potatoes, rich in potassium and vitamin C add fibre with their skins and a rustic earthiness.  Tender kale, also rich in nutrients, gently clings to all it surrounds for a wonderful spoonful.  It’s the best of both worlds, being hearty and comforting while still being healthy, satisfying, and full of flavour.  So even if eating better is not on your resolution list this year, you’ll still want a big bowl of this satisfying soup.  Enjoy!

      Author:  Compelled to Cook

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      I may receive compensation for purchases made through this site, at no cost to the purchaser. Compelled to Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

      Rustic Potato and Sausage Soup
      Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      8 cups 20 minutes
      Cook Time
      35-40 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      8 cups 20 minutes
      Cook Time
      35-40 minutes
      Rustic Potato and Sausage Soup
      Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      8 cups 20 minutes
      Cook Time
      35-40 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      8 cups 20 minutes
      Cook Time
      35-40 minutes
      Ingredients
      Servings: cups
      Instructions
      1. Over medium heat add 1 tbsp of olive to a large pot or dutch oven. Add sausage links and cook until golden and no longer pink, turning often about 15 minutes.
      2. Remove cooked sausage to a paper towel-lined dish to absorb any excess fat. To the same pot add remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic, sauté for 4-5 minutes until starting to soften and have sweat off some of their moisture.
      3. Pour in chicken broth and tomatoes crushed with your hands. Add potatoes, bay leaf, oregano, parsley, and both paprikas. Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes until potatoes are almost tender. While soup is cooking, chop kale and cooked sausage into bite-size pieces.
      4. Add kale and sausage to the pot and continue to cook partially covered for about 5 minutes until kale is cooked but still has some colour and bite. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with crusty bread if desired.

      Italian Turkey Kale Rolls

      Italian Turkey Kale Rolls

      With this weeks wintery weather here in western Canada I can safely say it’s casserole season! Which for me is a great because I love saucy and satisfying dishes that warm the house and fill it with mouth watering aroma. So while I’m not actually crazy about the weather, it does give cause to make Italian Turkey Kale Rolls. They’re a tasty way to warm your belly and beat off this weeks chill.

      Ground turkey is spiced up with Italian sausage, herbs and spices then combined with rice and rolled into kale leaves. Baked until flavours meld and the turkey is cooked through then topped with a sprinkling of cheese and given a quick broil. The resulting roll is tender, full of flavour and laden with tomatoey sauce. These tasty rolls are hearty and satisfying without being heavy, not to mention a great way to eat a little kale.

      I would consider Italian Turkey Kale Rolls a weekend recipe as there’s some prep and an hour long baking time. So a lazy Sunday afternoon is in order. The recipe does make 14 large rolls which for many of us will mean leftovers. Easy to portion out and freeze the leftovers to save for another wintery day when your time is limited.  Enjoy!

      Recipe source for Italian Turkey Kale Rolls:  Compelled To Cook

       

      Italian Turkey Kale Rolls
      Print Recipe
        Servings Prep Time
        14 rolls 45 minutes
        Cook Time Passive Time
        63 minutes 5 minutes
        Servings Prep Time
        14 rolls 45 minutes
        Cook Time Passive Time
        63 minutes 5 minutes
        Italian Turkey Kale Rolls
        Print Recipe
          Servings Prep Time
          14 rolls 45 minutes
          Cook Time Passive Time
          63 minutes 5 minutes
          Servings Prep Time
          14 rolls 45 minutes
          Cook Time Passive Time
          63 minutes 5 minutes
          Ingredients
          Rolls
          Servings: rolls
          Instructions
          Rolls
          1. Bring water and salt to a boil, add rice, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool while continuing.
          2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a simmer. Trim the bottom 2-3 inches from kale leaves. Blanch leaves in water for 3 minutes. Remove using a slotted scoop to a cold water bath or cold running water to stop the cooking process. Drain well.
          3. In a large bowl combine ground turkey, Italian sausage, onion, green pepper, garlic, herbs, salt, pepper and chili flakes. Mix gently just to combine all ingredients. Gently mix in rice.
          4. Preheat oven to 350℉. Lay a kale leaf flat and dab with a paper towel to grab any excess moisture. Scoop a generous 1/4 cup of filling onto leaf and roll leaf over filling, tucking in the sides as mush as possible. If the leaf is not large enough to tuck the sides simply press them around the filling. Place roll into a greased 13"x 9" casserole dish. Repeat with remaining kale and filling, stacking rolls tightly in pan getting 2 rows of 7.
          5. Pour sauce evenly over rolls, cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired and broil 2-3 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes prior to serving.
          Sauce
          1. In a medium bowl whisk together all ingredients and set aside until rolls are assembled.
          Recipe Notes

          I found that it takes 3 bunches of fresh kale to yield the 14 large leaves.  Save the smaller leaves for another use. It may be necessary to trim out about 1" of the center stem from the bottom of the cooked kale leaf to allow the leaf to roll nicely.  Don't worry too much about tucking in the sides as they are packed tightly in the pan and hold their shape when cooked.