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Italian Pork Meatball Pasta Bake

April 13, 2022

Is there a dish more comforting than a hot, cheesy pasta bake?


 Inspired by Italy’s masterful use of tomato and mozzarella, this pasta bake hits all the markers for cold-night decadence. Warm a loaf of bread to accompany this bake – you’ll want to soak up every last drop!

Serves 4

2 tsp fennel seeds
400g rigatoni
750g pork sausages
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 sprigs thyme leaves (no stems)
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
500g tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
150g mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper, to season
Fresh basil leaves, to serve

1. Toss the fennel seeds in a hot, dry skillet until toasted. Once toasted, crush the seeds and set them aside.
2. Preheat oven to 220°C.
3. Cook the rigatoni according to packet instructions until al dente. Drain and set the pasta aside.
4. Discard the sausage casings then roll the remaining meat into small meatballs. Season and set aside.
5. Add 2 tbsp oil to a large frypan over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook for 6-8 minutes, turning regularly, until the meatballs are evenly browned. Set aside.
6. Reduce the heat to medium and add your last 2 tbsp oil to the pan. Add the onion and stir gently for 4 minutes until soft. Add the fennel seeds, thyme, and garlic. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
7. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
8. Add 1 cup of water to the pan. Simmer the mixture for 8 minutes until slightly reduced.
9. Transfer the sauce to an oven dish. Gently stir in the meatballs and pasta then tear the mozzarella over the mixture and evenly scatter the parmesan.
10. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and bubbling. Top with fresh basil leaves to serve.

Serve with fresh salad or lightly steamed greens for a well-balanced meal.