I am always looking for the best tomato sauce. I love tomatoes and I love pasta. Finding the perfect sauce can be difficult. There are so many bad sauces out there. I really do not like tomato sauce in a jar from the supermarket. There is one brand that I can somewhat tolerate…if I add onion, garlic and wine to it, but most of them are either bland or entirely too salty. I try new things while making sauce all the time. Sometimes I add carrots to make the sauce more sweet, sometimes cheese to thicken it up, and sometimes good red wine to give it a lot of flavor. And of course, I always add onion and garlic. When I came across this recipe for tomato sauce and saw all the rave reviews and how simple it was too make, I was sold . The recipe calls for butter, which is what probably makes this sauce so tasty, and although I do not think I can make this my regular tomato sauce, due to all the calories, I really really enjoyed it. It is the best sauce that I have had in a long time.
Now what to make with this sauce… My husband likes turkey meatballs. I load them with garlic, onion, parmesan and parsley, and cook these massive meatballs in a pan with no oil or butter. Turning to mini-turkey meatballs sounded like more my style. I love how they were bite-sized. Adding flour to the meatballs provided a nice golden crust when cooked that I really liked too.
The finished product is a satisfying home-cooked meal. The tomato sauce tasted just how tomato sauce is supposed to taste (without the added saltiness and fake basil flavors), and finding the mini meatballs hiding among the ziti was delightful. The melted pecorino was a nice addition, but I do not think it was really needed. Just adding some grated parmesan on top is good enough.
Baked Ziti with Tomato Sauce and Mini-Turkey Meatballs
(Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking and Smitten Kitchen)
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup Parmesan
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground Black pepper
1 cup flour, spread on a plate
34 ounce (approximately) whole or plum peeled tomatoes from a can
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion
1 box ziti
1 ½ cups freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional)
Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Peel onion and cut in half. In a large sauce pan, add tomatoes, butter and onion. Cook for 30 minutes. Then, crush the tomatoes against the sides of the pot with a wooden or silicon spoon. Cook another 15 minutes. Remove onion and set aside.
Heat milk and add to bread crumbs. Let soak for 5 minutes. Chop garlic and parsley. Place in a bowl with egg and parmesan cheese. Add ground turkey and bread crumbs to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Add salt and pepper. Mix meat with other ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Spread flour out on a plate, and set aside another plate to collect the meatballs. Roll meat into cherry-sized balls. Roll the meatballs in the flour. Then place as many meatballs as can fit in a colander at a time and shake well so that the excess flour is released. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to a skillet, or spray with Pam, and place skillet on medium heat. (My skillet is non-stick, and I did not use anything to coat the skillet and the meatballs still cooked with a nice golden crust). Place as many meatballs in the pan as can fit and still cook evenly. Cook meatballs, turning them on all sides.
Boil pasta while you are cooking the meatballs.
Once the meatballs and pasta are done, place ziti in a large casserole dish, pour tomato sauce on top and add ¾ of the cheese. Mix through with a large spoon. Then add ¾ of the meatballs, and mix them through as well. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is melted and slightly golden. You can use all the meatballs if you would like, but the recipe makes many many meatballs and I thought that adding all of them would be overkill. So I saved the rest for future meals and snacking.