Easy pasta bake loaded with fresh mozzarella cheese, tender and juicy meatballs, fresh herbs and a delicious rich flavored sauce
New year. Old habits.
It seems I cannot shake off my obsession to combine kale and pasta. Funny thing, I just realized as I was typing the title that it’s happening again. I have to come up with some different pairing for kale. It was first the Italian sausage and kale skillet then those delicious and creamy baked pumpkin manicotti and now, these juicy meatballs kale and mozzarella pasta bake 🙂
Here comes my first resolution for this year. No more kale and pasta..together!
I could easily give up kale but never pasta.
Or cheese. Oh, yes! cheese is that one thing I can’t go without.
My fridge at this point screams no more cheese. I have feta, brie, goat cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, asiago, parmesan and blue cheese. I always add some type of cheese to our dishes. We are all cheese addicts 🙂
Today I have decided to add fresh mozzarella cheese to my meatball and pasta bake. I love the soft texture it has when it’s fresh. Like as fresh as you can get it 🙂 The best way to get some delicious fresh mozzarella is for sure to make your own. I am not at that stage (you can follow this step by step tutorial if you wanna have a go at it) and I try to get the best option I can find in the supermarkets.
In my experience, those water packed tubs can be quite rubbery sometimes so I choose vacuum packed mozzarella cheese. I definitely like more the texture and flavor this way.
These juicy meatballs kale and mozzarella pasta bake is so easy to make and beyond delicious!
Because of the sauce! The sauce is everything. Thick, rich, bursting with flavors from fresh herbs, good quality marinara sauce and Shiraz wine. It is to die for, no kidding. If you can find a good quality Shiraz and stay under $15 don’t look back. What is left after making the sauce will complement just perfectly the evening 🙂
- 2 cups pasta (I used ziti)
- 1 lb (500 g) ground beef
- ½ medium onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup Shiraz wine
- 1 (24 oz.) jar marinara sauce
- ½ bunch fresh kale, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- fresh mozzarella ball
- olive oil to spray the pan
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
- Add water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add some salt and cook pasta until al dente.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chopped onion, breadcrumbs, garlic, egg, salt and pepper and mix to incorporate all ingredients. Make meatballs and set them aside on a large plate. Heat a pan over medium heat. Stay a bit of olive oil and add meatballs to cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides for 5-7 minutes. Stir in wine, gently scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in marinara sauce, chopped kale, thyme and basil and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and fold in cooked pasta.
- Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, top with fresh mozzarella cheese cubes and bake for 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly.
- Remove from the oven and allow to stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley and basil.