500mlof extra virgin olive oil , or vegetable oil for frying
Ingredients for the meatball pasta bake
Half of the sauce you have just prepared
400gof garganelli mignon, or any other short pasta
100gof grated cheese, a mix of Parmigiano Reggiano, spicy provolone and aged dry ricotta
200gof fresh mozzarella
Extra virgin olive oil
Let’s start preparing the meatball sauce. You can even begin the day before and store it in the fridge once ready.
Prepare the two beef involtini, which will cook in the tomato sauce before adding the meatballs, making the sauce even tastier. Beat the eggs with the Parmigiano Reggiano and the chopped parsley, add salt and pepper and prepare an omelet.
Divide the omelet in a half, place each half onto a slice of beef. Wrap the beef slices onto themselves to form two rolls and secure the involtini with a piece of butcher’s twine. Set them aside.
Chop finely an onion and scrape it into a large thick-bottomed pot. Pour in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and season with a pinch of salt, which will help to cook the onion without letting it burn.
When the onion begins to sizzle, add the two beef involtini in the pot and brown them on each side, over medium heat.
Pour in the tomato sauce and dilute it with the warm water. Stir well and move the pan over low heat. Cover the pot and cook undisturbed for about an hour, checking from time to time that the tomato sauce is not sticking. If you see that the tomato sauce is thickening too fast, add some more water. Taste and adjust the salt.
While the tomato sauce is simmering away on the stove, prepare the meatballs.
Collect the minced meat in a bowl, then add the chopped parsley, the beaten egg, the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, then season with the salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix the ingredients with your hands until smooth.
Now it's time to make meatballs. An extra pair of hands will be helpful now.
Arrange on the table a tray generously dusted with breadcrumbs. Prepare also a bowl of water: you will have to wet your hands from time to time, as this will help you to shape smooth tiny meatballs.
Make the meatballs with a teaspoon and roll them on the palms of your hand until as round and big as a hazelnut. Roll in breadcrumbs and leave them in the tray.
When all the meatballs are ready, heat the frying oil in a medium-sized frying pan. Fry the meatballs in 4 or 5 batches, for a few minutes, turning them often, until golden. As they are ready, move them into a large dish lined with kitchen paper to absorb the frying oil.
When you have fried all the meatballs, and you've tasted some, I know you, it's time to add them into the pot with tomato sauce.
Remove the involtini from the tomato sauce, you won’t need them now, but you’ll have lunch ready! Pour the meatballs into the tomato sauce, stir well and add half a cup of hot water if you think the sauce is too thick. Taste and adjust the amount of salt again.
Cook the meatballs in the tomato sauce for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and set the sauce aside. You can use it immediately for the pasta bake or leave it to the next day. For the pasta bake you will only need half of it. The other half can be frozen, or used to season a bowl of spaghetti.
Now it is time to prepare the pasta bake.
Heat the oven to 200°C.
Cook the garganelli mignon in a pot of boiling salted water and drain al dente.
Season the pasta with the tomato sauce with meatballs, half of the grated cheese and the mozzarella torn into small pieces with your hands.
Scoop the pasta in a greased baking dish in a 5 cm layer. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the mozzarella and the cheese have melted and the pasta is browned here and there.
You can serve it immediately, or, even better, let it rest and reheat before bringing it to the table.