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Italian Meatball Casserole Dinner

I used a recipe from Modern Low Carb Recipes as the basis for the meatballs, but modified the sauce and toppings. What I loved about their meatball recipe is that the meatballs tasted so close to Italian sausage, minus all the salt and fat.

Assembling The Casserole

Make the meatballs first, so that the flavors of the seasonings and the ground pork can meld together in the fridge.

Missing from photo – the red wine!

I mixed the ground pork with the seasonings and red wine in the clear bowl, then put it in the fridge for a few hours.

Then, I assembled the meatballs, placed them on a cookie sheet, and returned to the fridge until I was ready.

Next, I turned to creating the sauce.

meatball
My favorite starter for marinara sauce
The sauce cooking

Browned the meatballs

Assembling the casserole

Ready for the oven!

15 minutes later, I added the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, basil, and parsley, then returned it to the oven for another 15 minutes.

And it’s ready to eat!

The Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup Italian cheese blend
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, small balls or slices into 1/4″ slices
  • 8 oz. fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 cloves minced garlic, divided
  • 1/2 chopped onion, divided

Instructions

Combine ground pork, red wine, and the next 4 spices in a medium bowl. Mix with your hands and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Use a melon baller to scoop meatball mixture into similarly sized meatballs and roll by hand into a round shape. You should have 18-20 meatballs. If not making right away, return to refrigerator on a cookie sheet until ready to use.

In a medium saucepan, add Pomi tomatoes, Italian seasoning, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1/4 cup of chopped onion. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened.

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add remaining onion and garlic and cook until translucent. Add meatballs to skillet and brown on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To assemble the casserole: add half of the sauce to the bottom of a 13 x 9″ low-sided casserole dish, then place meatballs on top of the sauce, evenly spacing them in the dish. Pour remaining sauce over the meatballs and top with Italian blend cheese. Bake, uncovered for 15 minutes.

Remove casserole from the oven, place mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese in spaces between the meatballs. Top with chopped parsley and basil. Return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Without pasta
With pasta for the hubby

This turned out to be a delicious meal! I couldn’t wait to share it you.

Looking for a some dinner inspiration? Here’s a weekly dinner plan:

https://thefeatherednester.com/meal-planning/

Let’s Make Some Blueberry Hand Pies

recipes

I have always struggled with baking. I believe it’s because although I had the desire, I didn’t have the  knowledge to create delicious baked goods. Thank heavens for technology! You can watch a You Tube video on how to do or make anything.

Several years ago, I discovered Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen, which really helped take my kitchen skills to a new level. Have you seen their television shows on PBS? If not, you should check it out. They’re amazing. I still struggled in the baking arena, though. Then I began using King Arthur Flour and visited their website (http://www.kingarthurflour.com) to take a look at their recipes. It is now my go-to website for baking. Not only do they have hundreds of great recipes but they have video’s, too! Through their website, I’ve learned how to make a sourdough starter, french bread, and now Blueberry Hand Pies!

Let’s Get Baking!

Pies
Blueberry filling

 

What’s a hand pie? Well, I wondered the same thing. It’s just like a turnover, except its square. And, it’s like a pie except it fits into your hand so it’s easy to eat. These hand pies are about 3 1/2″ inches square.

I decided to make the filling first, so it would have plenty of time to cool off. The crust took a little longer than I expected. It’s summer here and my kitchen is usually around 78 degrees or more if I’ve been cooking. So, I needed to pop the pastry into the fridge frequently to keep it firm after cutting and before filling.

 

pies
Cooling off

 

These pies turned out even better than I expected! I was definitely looking forward to taking them to our family’s 4th of July get-together. One of the best things is that the recipe only made 8, so there wouldn’t be lots of leftover temptations!

 

pies
Ready!

 

I would definitely recommend this recipe. If a baking-challenged person like me can make them, you can, too! They were a real hit with my family, especially my granddaughter. She loved the blueberry filling.

 

pies
Delicious!

 

Head here to get the recipe: Recipe or view it step-by-step on their blog: Here. This post is in no way affiliated or supported by King Arthur Flour, I just happen to love their website and products!

Planning Ahead and Meals

recipes

So, how do you handle meal planning? My ideal way is to take a moment on Sunday and formulate a plan for the week. Then, I pick the recipes I’ll use and make a list of the ingredients needed. But, there’s times when life gets in the way of my weekly meal planing and prepping.

The Market

I stopped at my favorite grocery store, The Market, on my way home from another appointment yesterday. I really like this smaller, personalized store for a number of reasons. They have a great selection of specialty foods, their deli is extensive with an area of gourmet cheeses, and they have a wide variety in their meat department. Perfect for my cooking style.

The Market isn’t in my neighborhood, so I usually only go there once or twice a month. While I was there there yesterday, I did some mental meal planning for the week ahead and bought what I needed.

I like to plan my meals and a create grocery list based on them. For some reason, though, I’ve gotten out of that planning habit lately. When I have a meal/dinner plan, it feels so good to put it in writing and share it with you, and on Instagram and Facebook.

So, I’m sharing this week’s meals with you.

Dinner Tonight

I started prepping the Black Bean and Kale Soup, the night prior by soaking the beans overnight. But, a pressure cooker will let you cook the beans in minutes. I share how in this post: https://thefeatherednester.com/lighter-dinner-menu-march-4th/.

This morning, I put them in the crockpot, along with chicken stock, smoked ham shanks, carrots, shallots, lime zest and juice, and spices. They’ll stay in the crockpot all day.

This afternoon I’ll add the kale, a little more lime juice, and check on the seasoning. I love fix-it and forget-it meals. A little organization goes a long way with them.

planning

Black Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of dried black beans, soaked overnight
  • 500 ml of chicken stock
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 shallots or 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup of carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1-2 smoked ham shanks
  • 7 oz. can of mild diced green chilies, drained
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy)
  • A bunch of kale, chopped or ribboned
  • For garnish: Cilantro, diced tomato, hot sauce, grated cheese, sour cream

Preparation:

After rinsing the beans that soaked overnight, place the beans in a crockpot and add 500ml of chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Add diced vegetables, smoked ham shanks, green chilies, lime zest and 1/2 of the lime juice, and spices. Set on low for 8 hours.

Check for seasoning and adjust as needed. Remove ham shanks, cut off the meat and discard the bones. Add the kale and let cook about 1 more hour.

For a thicker soup, use an immersion blender. Just before serving, add the last of the lime juice. Place in bowls with your choice of garnishes, and serve.

Dinners This Week

Here are the meals I came up with during my mental planning session:

Wednesday: Pasta Bolognese, Green Beans, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Stuffed Pork Chops, Farmhouse Salad, and French Bread

Friday: Skirt Steak, Baked Potato, and BBQ Ranch Salad

Saturday: Grilled Chicken Breasts, Rice, and Green Beans

I know our veggies look awfully redundant. Sadly, salads and green beans are usually the only “greens” we eat around here, though I did add kale to our bean soup. I try to sneak kale and spinach in where I can. Eating better and healthier is always a work in progress in my house.

How do you plan your meals? Do take an organized approach? Or shop on the fly while you’re at the grocery store?
Share your method with us in the comments below.
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