Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rustic Meatball Casserole

I really love it when I pull leftovers out of the fridge and my hubby gets excited about them. I'm sure I'm not the only one to say it's leftovers for dinner and the family says "oh" and not in the excited way. But it was good the first night and even better the second.

Before we start with the major players, let me tell you, this is a long, long recipe and you need a second recipe (for the meatballs) in order to make this one. That said, I think I will start with the meatballs.

These are similar to my regular meatball recipe with the exception that I used beef and pork, mincing them by hand. You can get ground, I just had some leftover steak trims that needed a place to go.

Homemade Meatballs
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup TVP, dry
3/4 cup very hot water or broth (I find the broth gives more flavor)
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated squash, zucchini or yellow, squeeze all the water out
2 to 4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. each onion powder & garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried parsely
Optional: 1 tsp. hickory smoke salt, 1 tsp. ground sage, 1 tsp. dry oregano ... use flavors to enhance the dish
Put TVP* into 2 cup measuring cup and pour hot broth over it and allow to rehydrate briefly.
In large bowl combine all ingredients, including rehydrated TVP. Mix quickly together until fully combined. Over-handling will make these tough.
Spray a drip pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with foil. Evenly divide meat into 12 to 15 meatballs. These are going to be tennis ball size (you can make smaller ones). Space evenly on drip pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until baked through.
If you are going to use these for something besides this casserole cook them at least an hour. You could cook them for 30 minutes, just enough to get them started and firm.

These make awesome meatball sliders topped with cheese and are excellent in spaghetti. All the guys here love them. And, they never notice the vegetables inside.

*What's TVP? Textured vegetable protein. I usually pay about 3.50 for 16 oz. dried tvp. I use it to expand the available meat in a recipe allowing me to get away using smaller portions of better quality meat and still feed everyone, especially when cooking for teenagers and hungry husbands. You can leave it out and increase the oatmeal to 3/4 cup.

Now for the casserole ...

Rustic Meatball Casserole
1 medium sweet onion, like Vidalia, sliced thin and soaked 20 minutes in cold water with a pinch of sugar
2 bunches of kale, washed and torn into small pieces, tough stems removed
3 small or 1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup celery, coarsely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped 1/2" dice
1/3 cup Canadian Bacon, precooked, chopped fine (you can sub. a 3 to 4 slices bacon, crumbled)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced (apx. 1 tsp.)
2 cans (14.5 oz.) tomatoes, okra & corn, 1 can drained (reserve broth) and 1 can undrained
2 cups Italian cheese blend, grated
6 to 8 large meatballs (roughly half the meatball recipe)
1 pkg. (16 oz.) tortellini, cooked in reserved juice & water (filling flavor your choice, I used cheese)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large casserole dish and lid with cooking spray.

Spray large skillet with cooking spray and heat medium-high. Add onions and cook until just tender. Begin adding kale a little at a time and cover, letting each addition cook down before adding the next. Once all kale cooked remove about half to a small bowl.

Leaving a little onion and kale in the skillet add the garlic and cook just 30 seconds, then add green pepper, squash, celery and bacon. Cook until celery and pepper tender. Add kale back to pan. Add 1 can drained tomato mix and 1 can undrained tomato mix and let all cook through.

This smells awesome.
I drained my cooked vegetable mix and added juices to the cooking liquid for my tortellini to give it more flavor. You don't need to do this, although draining the vegetables does help to keep your casserole from becoming to wet.

Cook tortellini in lightly salted water and reserved juices. Drain and place in medium bowl. 

In your sprayed casserole dish, you now want to assemble in layers starting with drained vegetable mix, 1/3 of mix in the bottom of the dish. Add 1/3 tortellini, then 1/2 to 3/4 cup cheese blend sprinkled over top. Second layer repeats the first, topping with cheese. Third layer uses last 1/3 of vegetables and then place your meatballs around the outer edge of your casserole dish. Now add remaining tortellini and top everything with remaining cheese.

Cover with your sprayed lid or tin foil sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 to 45 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes more until bubbly and golden.

This can be made ahead and frozen, or made in the morning to bake in the evening. Leftovers also reheat well. I evened them out in the dish and topped with more cheese.

While this was baking ...

I sprayed the very bright gold light fixture in my kitchen with hammered copper. I also sprayed the switch and plug covers.

It looks so much better with the more antique looking coloring. The bright gold was just too harsh with my wall color. Now to get the ceiling washed and painted.


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