These individual cheese-stuffed cakes are a great way to use up leftover pasta. Perfect for lunch, dinner, or as a snack, the individual portions can be reheated as needed. Just make sure no one sneezes!
For the sauce and meatballs:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 minced garlic cloves, divided
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 dried bay leaf
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¾ pound ground beef (90% lean)
- 1/3 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs, plus more if needed
- 1 egg white (yolk reserved for pasta cakes)
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
For the pasta cakes:
- 4 cups cooked angel hair pasta (about 8 ounces dried pasta), cooled under running water and tossed with olive oil to prevent sticking
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ¾ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 12 (½-inch) cubes fresh mozzarella cheese
- To make sauce, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium; add half the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon salt; season with pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low; cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To make meatballs, heat oven to 350 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining garlic, ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg white, milk, parsley, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Mix well; shape meat mixture into 12 balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
- Place cooked meatballs into sauce and stir to combine. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Keep warm.
- To make pasta cakes, coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolk, milk, Parmigiano cheese, salt, and pepper. Add cooked pasta and toss to combine. Fill muffin tins halfway with pasta mixture. Place a cube of mozzarella in each and cover with remaining pasta. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 25 minutes, or until cakes are set and edges are lightly golden. Remove from oven; use a small spatula to loosen cakes and place on plates. Top each pasta cake with 1 meatball and some sauce.
Note: Pasta cakes and meatballs can be made in advance. Cool cakes completely and wrap well in plastic or foil; reheat in microwave or oven. Reheat meatballs in sauce on the stove.
On Top of Spaghetti by Paul Brett Johnson. Scholastic, 2006
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