We’re settling into September, but that doesn’t mean garden fresh produce should be hard to find. Late summer is all about zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant – all of which are in this flavorful Summer Harvest Pasta with Mascarpone Meatballs. The array of fresh vegetables in this recipe is the first thing that caught my attention. I loved the idea of incorporating all of them into a delicious sauce to serve over Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta. The second thing that piqued my interest – and got my mouth watering – was the thought of making mascarpone meatballs. If you’re not familiar with mascarpone, it’s an Italian style cream cheese- not quite as tangy as American cream cheese – more velvety smooth and heavier on the cream side. It’s a bit of a gourmet ingredient and this was the first time I had seen it incorporated into something like a meatball. Being the foodie that I am, I was excited to find out what these meatballs would taste like – especially with such a delicious sauce to back them up. Off to the kitchen I went.
Look at these gorgeous vegetables! The tomatoes and zucchini are from my garden and the peppers, eggplant and sweet onion are from our local farmer’s market. How can you not want to create something wonderful with these beauties?
We’re going to begin by slicing the eggplant and salting it with plenty of coarse grained, kosher salt and setting them in a colander to drain. Salting the eggplant helps draw out the bitterness. Don’t worry about the amount of salt you sprinkle on – just make sure each piece is salted on both sides and then set them aside. I put my colander of eggplant in the sink to drain while I prepared the rest of the sauce. We’ll be rinsing off all of the salt before we cook with the eggplant.
Slice the zucchini and onion. Set aside.
Next, we need to roast the peppers. Split the peppers in half and pull out the cores. Lay the peppers flat side down on a foil lined baking sheet and stick them under the oven broiler for a few minutes. When the peppers have started to char and wrinkle, they’re ready to come out. All ovens are different, so keep a close watch on the peppers once you start to broil them. Mine only took a few minutes to look like this.
After you take the peppers out of the oven, carefully wrap the in the foil and let them cool down for 5-10 minutes. Wrapping up the peppers gives them a chance to steam which makes it easier to peel off the skins before we puree them into a sauce.
Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and put them into a bowl. Use an immersion blender to puree the peppers into a smooth sauce. Add a little bit of water to thin out the sauce if it’s too thick. You can use a food processor to do the same job if you don’t own an immersion blender. I love to use mine whenever I can – it’s like a kitchen power tool.
Set this sauce aside.
On to the meatballs.
In a small bowl, mix together the panko bread crumbs and milk. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper and mascarpone cheese. Get in there with your hands and squish everything together until it is almost combined. Add in the panko – which at this point has absorbed the milk – and mix that in with the rest of the meat mixture until everything is well combined.
Scoop out large tablespoon-sized meatballs and place them on foil lined baking sheets – about an inch apart. Bake them in a 350o F oven for 20-25 minutes or until they have reached an internal temperature of 155oF. You will end up with more meatballs than you need to complete this dish, so you can either put the leftovers in the refrigerator to use in another meal – maybe meatball sandwiches – or allow them to cool, put them in a plastic bag and stick them in the freezer to use another time. Dinner is never far behind when you have meatballs in the freezer.
*Side Note* If you can’t find mascarpone, regular cream cheese will work just fine.
It’s time to get the pasta cooking.
I simply love cooking with Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta. It is filled with 100% healthy whole wheat, it holds up well in thick sauces, it tastes great and it’s so darn cute – look at those crimped edges! Not only are they doing my body good, they make my food look fancy. Total bonus.
Cook the pasta for 7-8 minutes in a large pot of boiling, salted water or until it is al dente. Drain the noodles – reserving a cup of the cooking water. Set aside while we put the sauce together.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and zucchini. Cook until the onion begins to turn brown and the zucchini is crisp tender – about 5 minutes. While the onion and zucchini are cooking, rinse off the eggplant slices, cut them into cubes and add them to the skillet. Sauté the eggplant with the onion and zucchini for about 3 minutes and then add the oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Next add the tomatoes and pureed peppers. Stir everything together –adding some of the reserved pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce if it becomes too thick.
Gently fold in as many meatballs into the sauce as you want to serve for dinner– I allotted 3-4 meatballs per person. Allow the meatballs to simmer and warm up in the sauce for a few minutes.
Distribute some of the cooked Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta onto plates and top with a large spoonful of the vegetable sauce and a few meatballs. Serve hot with a sprinkle of fresh parsley on top.
This Summer Harvest Pasta with Mascarpone Meatballs was a big hit at our dinner table. I found that the addition of mascarpone made the meatballs very tender and moist. The vegetable sauce tastes like a little bit of summer in each bite and would be wonderful on its own if you choose not to make the meatballs. Adding a little bit of parsley at the end may not seem like a big deal, but it definitely adds a brightness and fresh taste that helps compliment the rest of the dish. And of course, the Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Bow Tie Pasta makes the whole meal come together – you just can’t beat it when it comes to whole wheat pasta.
Notice that rustic looking loaf of bread in the background? We’ll be making that next. Stay tuned to our blog for further details. In the meantime, start collecting your ingredients to make this Summer Harvest Pasta with Mascarpone Meatballs – it’s a winner. Enjoy!
Summer Harvest Pasta with Mascarpone Meatballs
makes about 50
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- Pinch of crushed red pepper – or more if you like spicy foods
- ¼ cup mascarpone cheese or regular cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon whole milk
Mix the panko and milk together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Put the beef, pork, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, mascarpone and salt in a large bowl and mix until the ingredients are almost combined – use your hands. Add the panko/milk mixture and mix everything together until well combined. Scoop out tablespoon-sized meatballs and place on aluminum foil lined baking sheets. Bake in a 350o F oven for 20-25 minutes or until they have reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees. Set aside the number of meatballs you want to serve with dinner and refrigerate the rest for a meal up to 3 days later or let the meatballs cool and put them in a large plastic bag to freeze for another time.
Summer Harvest Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups zucchini, sliced
- 2 cups onions, sliced
- 1 small eggplant, sliced
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
- 3 sweet bell peppers, any color
- 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
Slice the eggplant and salt heavily on both sides with coarse-grained kosher salt. Set salted slices in a colander to drain and draw out the bitterness. Set aside. Cut the bell peppers in half, core and place flat side down on foil lined baking sheets. Broil peppers in the oven until char marks appear and the skin is becoming wrinkly. Remove from the oven and wrap the peppers in the foil from the baking sheets. Allow the peppers to steam in the wrapped foil for 5-10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Remove the skins from the peppers and puree into a smooth sauce with an emersion blender or in a food processor. Add a small amount of water if the sauce is too thick. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the sliced onions and zucchini and sauté until the onion starts to brown and the zucchini is crisp tender – about 5 minutes. Rinse off the eggplant slices and cut them into cubes. Add them to the skillet and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the oregano, tomatoes and pepper puree. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the number of meatballs you want to serve for dinner and let the sauce simmer on low while you cook the pasta.
Heat a large pot of salted water and boil the bow tie pasta for 7-8 minutes or until al dente. Portion out the cooked noodles onto plates, top with a large spoonful of vegetable sauce and a few meatballs. Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley on top of each dish. Serve hot.