Rigatoni and Meatballs

*Rigatoni and Meatballs*
Serves 4

My family always loved this old standby.  It may seem like a lot of faff, but most of it can be done well ahead of time and then just popped into the oven for about 20 minutes before you want to serve it.

For the meatballs:
1 large free range egg
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 pound extra lean ground beef
(Can use ground turkey or chicken if you wish)

For the sauce:
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups sliced mushrooms
1 green pepper, trimmed, de ribbed and chopped
1 1/2 tsp each, dried basil and sugar
1 tsp each dried oregano and salt
3/4 tsp of black pepper
1 can (28 ounce) of chopped tomatoes
2 TBS tomato paste

To finish:
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 pound of rigatoni pasta
1 1/3 cups shredded Mozarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

LIghtly mix together all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl.  Shape heaping TBS of the micture into balls.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the meatballs and brown them all over, in batches if necessary, for about 8 to 10 minutes, removing to a plate lined with paper towels as they are done.  Set aside.

Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms and green pepper to the pan drippings.  Sweat over low heat for about 10 minutes until softened, adding a tablespoon of water if needed to keep them from sticking, and stirring occasionally.  Add the basil, sugar, oregano, pepper, tomatoes and tomato paste.  Bring to the boil, then add the meatballs.  Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, until tender but still firm.  Drain well and return to the pot.  Stir in the sauce and meatballs gently, to coat.

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.  Lightly grease an 8 cup shallow baking dish.  Pour in the pasta mixture, spreading it out evenly.  Sprinkle with both cheeses.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the casserole is bubbling.  Enjoy!


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