Ziti al forno con polpette (oven pasta with meatballs)

Oven pasta is a very popular dish in Italy, especially during winter. This version of oven pasta comes traditionally from a region in the south of Italy called Puglia.

Ingredients

  • 500 g ziti; if you can’t find it, go for rigatoni
  • 200 g mozzarella, sliced in cubes
  • 50 g pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • 800 g tomato sauce
  • 1 big onion, very finely chopped
  • 4  to 6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 250 g minced meat
  • 50 g pecorino or parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 handful of parsley, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon of bread crumble
  • 1 egg (medium)
  • 1 little red chili pepper, very finely chopped and without the seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • a splash of red wine

Method

Start with the sauce

  1. Make a “soffritto”, typically onion cooked in a pan with olive oil until golden
  2. Add the tomato sauce with some spices to flavor it (salt, pepper, parsley, basilicum and a bit of red wine if you like) and cook it on low fire for about 30 minutes

Prepare the meatballs

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 175 C / 350 F
  2. Mix all the ingredients together and make small meatballs, the size of a nut
  3. Put them in an oven pan and in the oven for 20 minutes
  4. Turn them around and continue cooking for other 10 minutes

Put everything together

  1. Boil some water in a pan, adding a bit of salt, and cook the pasta half-way through (about 4 minutes – it will continue cooking when in the oven)
  2. Drain the pasta and add to it a bit of tomato sauce so that it won’t stick
  3. Put together all the ingredients in an oven pan with high edges, one layer at the time like you’d do with lasagna: start with the pasta, then cover it up with the tomato sauce, the meatballs and the cheeses; then again another layer until you have finished the ingredients; the very last layer should be covered on tomato sauce and parmesan cheese finely grated)
  4. Cover all up with aluminum foil and put the pan in the center of the oven at 175 C / 350 F, for 25 minutes
  5. Get rid of the foil and continue cooking for other 10 – 15 minutes (or until the cheese has formed a nice and gold-ish crust)
  6. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes

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