Baked Meatballs with Orzo in Roasted Pepper Sauce

"These could probably be the best meatballs & pasta you’ll ever make. There’re so many hidden layers of flavors in this dish. The meatballs are tender but firm, made with ground beef and ricotta. Then drenched in a rich eggplant & roasted bell pepper tomato sauce together with the orzo. Good news! You only need one pan to cook the entire dish."
-- @anna_s_table
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  • Recipe Card
Prep time 10mins
Cook time 40mins
Serves or Makes: 4

Recipe Card


  • 200 g (7 ounces) orzo
  • 150 g (5 ounces) grated mozzarella
  • 1 eggplant, sliced into small cubes
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 jar roasted bell peppers, liquid drained
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 250 milliliter (1 cup) chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, chili flakes
  • salt + black pepper
  • fresh thyme, for sprinkling
  • olive oil



  • 500 g (1.1 pound) ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon each: smoked paprika, dried oregano, cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or grated


  • Step 1

    In a high speed blender add crushed tomatoes, stock, roasted peppers and tomato paste. Blend until smooth.

  • Step 2

    Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes. In the meantime, cut the eggplant, slice the shallot and mince the garlic. Add the beef, egg, garlic, ricotta, seasoning, salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs. Mix just until combined, using your hands. Roll the meat into balls. In a large oven-proof skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Brown meatballs on all sides, remove from skillet.

  • Step 3

    In the same skillet, add shallot and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add 3 tbsp olive oil, then the eggplant cubes. Cook for 5 minutes, then add in orzo. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in tomato sauce, salt, pepper and the seasoning. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on very low heat for 8 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Stir from time to time with a wooden spoon. If needed, add a little bit of water. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Add meatballs to the sauce, simmer for 5 minutes or until the orzo is al dente. Sprinkle with cheese and fresh thyme. Place in the oven until the mozzarella is melted and golden, about 10 minutes. Serve!

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