There are days when the water never stops pouring from the sky and the idea of sloshing out to the grocery store sends shivers through my cardigan-wearing self. That is always when I badly need a familiar casseroley-type dish for dinner, but going out to the market to get ingredients for said meal is just too much to ask. Not when it’s raining sideways. So last night, I took the lead of every recession/depression era wife before me and I opened the cupboard (and freezer) and peered deep within to find the makings of a meal.
Of course, I found the omnipresent box of short pasta twists and a jar of Amy’s Family Marinara. Next, I dug into our pullout freezer drawer (which is the dumbest refrigerator design ever, by the way) and found a wad of Italian pork sausage sealed in a ziplock from god-knows-when. So I thought “meatballs, that’s what I need!” and since sausage is as good as ground pork and beef, it was going to be a pasta ‘n’ meatballs night.
But what would Mr. Tofu have? There was a package of Morning Star breakfast sausage patties in the freezer. But breakfast patties on pasta? That didn’t sound so good. I set aside the patties and decided to figure out something for him later. I made my Italian pork sausage meatballs with a bit of egg, homemade breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and a little ketchup. Lovely.
But as long as I was improvising, why not use the veggie sausage patties in the same way? I crumbled them and mixed them up with the same ingredients as the meatballs. And you know what? They were good. Not “proudly serve these to your Sicilian grandmother- good”, but since my grandmother is Polish and she wasn’t coming to dinner anyway, it wasn’t a problem. My vegetarian loved his “eatballs,” as he called them, I got my meatball fix, the freezer and pantry are now a tiny bit roomier, and I didn’t have to go out in the spring storm. Good deal. Good meal.
For the Meatballs/Eatballs:
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plain yogurt or milk
6 ounces bulk Italian sausage
4 1/2 ounces Morningstar vegetarian breakfast sausage patties (4 small disc shaped patties), crumbled
2 tablespoons ketchup
5 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons minced parsley
3 pinches Italian seasoning (I like Penzey’s Spices)
A few grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Pasta Bake:
8 ounces fusili or penne pasta
2 1/2 cups Amy’s Family Marinara
6 ounces fresh mozzarella (about 1 ball), torn into small pieces
- Combine the breadcrumbs and yogurt in a small bowl. Stir to combine and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Place the Italian sausage in a medium mixing bowl. Add half of the breadcrumb mixture, 1 tablespoon of the ketchup, 3 tablespoons of the cheese, half of the egg, half of the parsley, 1 pinch of the Italian seasoning and a few grinds of pepper. Squish with your hands until well combined. Form mixture into unshelled walnut-size balls, place on a dinner plate, and set aside. You should have about 10.
- Wash hands thoroughly. In another medium bowl, combine the crumbled vegetarian sausage patties and the remaining breadcrumb mixture, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 2 tablespoons cheese, remaining egg, parsley, 2 pinches Italian seasoning, and a few grinds of pepper. Squish with hands to combine and form into “eatballs” that are slightly smaller than the meatballs; you should have about 10.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while cooking meatballs. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the “eatballs” and cook until browned on all sides, watch carefully and reduce heat if they begin to burn. Place “eatballs” on a small plate.
- Return skillet to medium heat, add remaining tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs and cook until they are browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Cook the pasta until al dente, drain. Heat marinara in a microwave-save measuring cup or bowl until hot. Divide the pasta among 4 oven-save baking dishes and top with the tomato sauce.
- Preheat the broiler. Divide the meatballs among 2 baking dishes, nestling them into the sauce and pasta. Top with half of the cheese and place on the left side of a baking sheet. Nestle the “eatballs” in the remaining baking dishes in the same way, top with remaining cheese and place on the ride side of the baking sheet. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.