You are so going to thank me for this.
On alternate Mondays, I have 4 hungry children to feed after school instead of the usual 2. I've mentioned before that it's a pretty quick turnaround as we're usually not back from school till just before 5, and then we have to be out again by 6.15 for Cubs. The food has to be easy, ready to go and crowd pleasing.
I actually made this for the post-Remembrance Sunday lunch, but we had to cancel as I succumbed to one of the many (or may be it's just one) nasty stomach bugs that's going round at the moment, and this was consigned to the freezer, along with the sausage and bean casserole that was the alternative dish, and the traybake Bakewell tart...
Pasta, meatballs, freezeable. I have yet to meet a child that doesn't like meatballs and you really can't have enough variations on them. This really is the answer to
most post-school child feeding problems - certainly most of those that I
am faced with. It started off as a John Torode recipe in a Good Food mag (September 2009 - a bumper issue as far as I'm concerned), but as is inevitable, has been tweaked to suit.
Sausage meatball pasta bake
Serves 6-8 mixed (and fairly hungry) adults & children
150ml olive oil (I know - it sounds a lot, but you drain a lot of it off one way and another), 3 large onions, finely chopped, 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, 100g bread crumbs, or just mash up 100g worth of bread with a fork, 50ml milk, 500g beef mince, 500g sausage meat, 200ml red wine (or stock, if you haven't got any) 4 * 400g cans chopped tomatoes, 500g pasta - penne or macaroni is good, cheddar or other hard cheese to grate over.
Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan, and cook the onions and garlic, along with freshly ground salt and pepper, slowly, till they onions are soft but not coloured. Remove the onions using a slotted spoon, leaving as much oil as you can in the pan. Set aside half the onions and mix the other half in a large bowl with the breadcrumbs, milk, mince and sausage meat. Add in more salt and pepper if you want. If you do have some parsley available, you could add a good chopped handful in too. When everything is mixed together really well, shape into ping-pong ball sized meatballs.
Put a large pan of salted water on the stove, bring to the boil and cook the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, put the pan with the oil in it (that's left from cooking onions) back on the heat and brown the meatballs in batches. As the meatballs are browned, remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. When all the meatballs are browned, put the reserved onions in the pan along with the wine/stock to scrape all the good bits off the bottom of the pan, then stir in 2 of the cans of tomatoes and the meatballs. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes. Drain the pasta then in the largest dish you can find, mix together the pasta and the meatballs and sauce.
You can freeze the cooled dish at this stage - either as one massive dish or in portions as required.
When you are ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 180C. My dish looked a bit dry when I got it out of the freezer and defrosted it, which is where the extra cans of tomatoes come in, although you may decide you don't need it. The original recipe pours a white sauce over the pasta and meatballs, but Blue is no lover of white sauce, so I bubbled up the second 2 cans of tomatoes, tipped it over the pasta and meatballs, stirred it all together and grated some cheese on top.
In the oven for 30 minutes = happy kids.