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Cheesy Penne With Meatballs & Fennel
"Lunchtime penne #madeinstaub"
-- @cheftaylorerickson

Recipe Intro From cheftaylorerickson

This recipe is featured in our Weekly Meal Planner here!

Cheesy Penne with Meatballs & Fennel

Serves 6


1 lb penne pasta

For the Sauce

2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 white onion chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. tomato paste
2 carrots, shredded or chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
28oz. can diced tomatoes
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and chopped
1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp crushed chili flakes
4 tbsp. butter
3/4c cream
Salt & pepper to taste

For the Meatballs

1 lb. ground pork (preferably not too lean)
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 egg beaten (*see note)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly cracked pepper
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Assembly

1 Ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
1 bunch of basil


For the Meatballs

In a large bowl, combine the pork, fennel seeds, egg, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs. Form about 16 1 1/2 inch meatballs with your hands. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot, and working in batches over medium heat, brown the meatballs (about 2 minutes per side). Set aside.

For the Sauce

In the same pot used for the meatballs, heat the olive oil and add the onion and deglaze the pan as they release their juices. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the carrot and fennel and allow to cook 10 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes, the fresh tomatoes, brown sugar, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the butter and allow the sauce to simmer for at east 20 minutes, or up to 45 minutes. Longer simmer, better sauce. After simmering, if the sauce needs more liquid, add a little water. Blend the sauce in the pot with the immersion blender until relatively smooth and everything is combined.

Finish the sauce with the cream. Test for salt and pepper. Add if needed. Add the meatballs to the sauce and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚ F, and cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. With a slotted spoon, add the cooked pasta to the sauce and fold everything in together. Add some of the pasta water to thin the sauce if desired.

For the Assembly

Pour half of the pasta/meatball mixture into a greased casserole dish. Top with half of the mozzarella slices, arranged as evenly as possible, and half of the parmesan.
Pour the rest of the pasta into the dish and top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Top with scattered fresh basil leaves and serve.