In between holidays, and suffering from “holiday jet lag”, I always like an easy, yet tasty, go-to dish that does not resemble holiday food in ANY – – way – – shape – – or – – form!! Know the feeling?! Right!! 😉
This is one of my favorites that’s “mostly-homemade” and absolutely DELICIOUS. A jar of pasta sauce and a can of tomatoes help me out, but everything else is homemade and the whole dish is a comforting change from the “holiday food”!
Don’t get me wrong, I wait all year for the holiday goodies, but after several days, enough is enough. Especially when they’re lined up back-to-back knowing Christmas and New Year’s follow all too closely after Thanksgiving to want anything that even resembles what you just ate for three days…
So if you’re wanting to break out of the leftover “pit of dread”, this one will surely bring a much needed smile to your tummy and revive those taste buds!
I wouldn’t say this dish is “healthy”, but with 3 more major holidays coming, (including Valentine’s day), I just don’t make my life even more complicated and stressful by counting calories during the chaos!
AFTER the massive holiday storm is over, then I relax and let things take it’s normal stride and everything falls back into place naturally.
Although, in my own defense, this dish has quite a few veggies from tomatoes and tomato sauce, to olives, peppers, onions, mushrooms and even kale!
And a low-fat mozzarella and whole grain pasta can be subbed no problem. So, it’s healthier than you might think. 😉
You can even add celery, artichoke hearts, asparagus tips, grated carrots, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, shallots or any other veggie you enjoy. T
his is one of those recipes that after making the basic part, you can play around with it and add whatever you like!
Other cheeses work well with this, too, if mozzarella isn’t your thing! Any one or combinations of provolone, parmesan, asiago, muenster, co-jack, cheddar, feta, havarti or monterey jack go nicely as well.
Meat combinations are also endless!
You can make lower fat meatballs by using all or part ground turkey or chicken, or omit them altogether for a Meatless Monday dish!
Or you can of course turn this into a Meat LOVER’S dish by adding prosciutto, canadian bacon, ham, salami, pepperoni, bacon, chicken, capicola or panchetta!
So if you have the “holiday leftover blues”, this casserole is a nice change of pace!
Easy to toss together and a classic family favorite that everyone enjoys!
Simply serve with some breadsticks or garlic bread and a nice tossed salad, and dinner will be a huge hit!
Have a wonderful day all, and may your Holidays be Merry and Bright! 🙂
RIGATONI MEATBALL CASSEROLE with CREMINI MUSHROOMS, KALE, BLACK OLIVES & FRESH MOZZARELLA
1 lb. lean hamburger
1 lb. ground italian sausage (mild, sweet or hot)
1 cup Italian seasoned dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Kraft finely grated regular parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried italian seasoning
1/2 cup milk
1 Tbl. dried minced onions
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
more pepper for tops once rolled into meatballs
Rest of Ingredients:
3 Tbl. butter
1 medium onion, cut bite-sized
1 large jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds scraped away and finely chopped, (*don’t worry it won’t be hot!)
8 oz. pkg. fresh sliced cremini mushrooms
1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1 (24 oz.) jar Barilla Traditional All-Natural Pasta Sauce
1 (14.5 oz.) can stewed tomatoes with Italian Herbs added plus the juice and broken up with your hands, (I like Hunt’s)
4 cups fresh kale torn into large bite-sized pieces, 2″ x 2″ and smaller (will reduce when cooked)
1/2 – 1 cup sliced black olives, to taste, (if using whole, slice into thirds)
1 Tbl. ground parmesan cheese, I use the Kraft finely grated regular kind
8 oz. (*half of a 16 oz. box) Barilla Rigatoni Pasta, or your favorite brand
1 (16 oz.) sliced log of mozzarella, torn into pieces
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
2 Tbl. more Kraft finely grated regular parmesan cheese
In large bowl, add hamburger and ground sausage breaking up and mixing together. Add rest of meatball ingredients and mix well with hands. Shape into 35-40 meatballs. Place onto lightly greased baking sheet(s), sprinkle tops lightly and evenly with more coarse ground black pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for 22-25 minutes. Don’t worry if they’re slightly pink in the middle, because they will continue to bake in the oven. Remove from cookie sheet with sharp spatula to a paper towel-lined plate to rest.
For Rest of Casserole:
While meatballs are resting, prepare rest. In large deep frying pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and jalapeños. Sauté for 5 minutes until onions are tender, add mushrooms and pepper, and sauté for another 2 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce, stewed tomatoes, kale, olives, meatballs and parmesan cheese. Stir gently to coat all and mix. Cover and remove from heat.
In small pot, add rigatoni and cook per directions until al dente. Drain well, and gently fold into meatball mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour mixture into sprayed 13×9 or larger baking dish. Arrange nicely so that all fits comfortably and ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the casserole. (Prevents future fights over who got more meatballs. 😉 )
Tear up cheese slices in halves or more, and place evenly over top of casserole. Sprinkle top evenly with Italian seasoning, garlic salt and parmesan cheese.
Pop into preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until heated through, bubbly and cheese is to desired doneness.
Serve with garlic bread and tossed salad.
*Can be made the day before. Make, assemble and cover. Refrigerate overnight. Next day, bring to room temp by setting out for at least 30 minutes to an hour on the counter, then bake!