Pasta bake with spicy Italian meatballs
Cook 500g tubular pasta (rigatoni, etc) in a large pot of boiling water for 2 minutes less than according to the package instructions. Drain and pour into a large and deep baking dish. Pour over a 700g jar of passata (pureed tomatoes). Rinse out the jar with 100ml water, and pour over the pasta. Stir around.
Evenly distribute over-top: 2 chopped, fresh red chillies, 125g shredded fresh mozzarella (one large ball), 250g grilled and peeled red peppers from a jar, 1/3 cup of chopped sundried peppers (or tomatoes), sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Now stir gently till combined.
Slit open 400g spicy Italian sausages (or I used the same amount of high-quality sausage meat combined with 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp chilli flakes and a sprinkling of dried thyme and sea salt). Form into 18 small balls and distribute evenly over the pasta, pushing them down slightly into the pasta. Finally, take 150g fresh ricotta cheese and dot around the pasta in small pieces, much like the sausage.
Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the oven at 200c for around 30 minutes (or until the pasta edges are nice and crisp).
Garnish with some Greek basil (i.e. the small-leafed variety) and serve with a crisp green salad and some garlic bread.
Note: You can assemble this pasta dish a few hours ahead of time and pop in the oven just before serving.
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