Caprese Shells with Mini Meatballs.

Something just occurred to me as I stared at these pictures.

You didn’t have to make the meatballs. Why not just, like, brown the meat with the same seasonings and flavors?

Uh huh. Maybe. Why didn’t I do that? That would have been so much easier.

I think it’s because I’m in love with mini things. Mini things are cuter. Mini things are more fun. (note: my brain said funner.) Mini things are easier to eat and mini things fit in adorable little jars and sweet little bowls with flowers on them that I break immediately after I shell out an arm and a leg for one.

I’m also all about eating things that are all the same size in one big bowl, which is probably the only reason that I ever choke down a chopped salad. Little shells, little tomatoes, little meatballs and even little balls of cheese!

If you know me – real or invisibly – you’ve probably already figured out that I designed this entire meal around those dumb little balls of mozzarella. I LOVE THOSE THINGS. The fact that they come in a few different sizes and go perfectly with cherry tomatoes and a lot of salt and pepper might be one of the few reasons I began eating the occasional vegetable voluntarily.

And no, please don’t break out the-tomato-is-really-a-fruit argument yet. You can wait a few more months into summer when I’m really all over them and boasting about my very grand (and non-green) veg consumption.

Yeah.

This was also a great way to bridge the gap in our house between a pasta lover and a tomato sauce hater. It had enough tomato-y stuff to make him happy, and little enough in order for me to love it and… pick around some of it. I mean, when it comes to a dish like this, it allows you the freedom to pick out all of the little cheese balls.

Don’t know anything about that though.


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Caprese Shells with Mini Meatballs

Yield: serves 4

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

meatballs
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated romano cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

pasta
1 1/2 pounds whole wheat pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pint grape tomatos, halved or quartered
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped + more for topping
1 cup ciliegine (mini fresh mozzarella balls)
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare water for pasta and bring to a boil. Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, add ground beef, egg, oil, cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and parsley. Mix to combine, gently tossing a few times with your hands. Don’t overmix – it will result in tough meatballs! Using a teaspoon measuring spoon, roll mixture into small meatballs, about the diameter of a nickel or so. Place in the baking dish and bake for 20 minutes.

While meatballs are baking, begin to boil pasta. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil and garlic, then stir in diced tomatoes, chopped basil and fresh grape tomatoes. Before draining pasta, reserve 1/3 cup of the water and pour into the skillet. Add the pasta into the skillet, then add the meatballs once finished. Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella. Top with some freshly grated cheese and more basil.

Cutest little spoonful!