Spaghetti and Meatball Casserole
- 1/2 lb (8 oz) whole wheat spaghetti noodles
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
- 1/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 6 oz extra-lean ground beef
- 1 tbsp wheat germ
- 1 tbsp skim milk
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
- 2 1/2 cups strained tomatoes (passata)
- 1 bay leaf
Preparation time 25mins
Cooking time 45mins
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly mist an 11-cup (2.6L) casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside. Cook spaghetti to al dente according to package directions. Drain pasta, rinse under cold water and drain again; set aside.
In a food processor fitted with a chopping blade, add garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add basil and pulse again until finely chopped. Add oil and half of Parmigiano-Reggiano and pulse until well blended. Remove 1 tbsp basil mixture and reserve in a medium bowl. Add cottage cheese to food processor and process until smooth and blended.
Add beef, wheat germ and milk to bowl with reserved basil mixture and mix gently until blended. Form mixture into rounded teaspoon-size meatballs (about 24 in total). Heat a heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Mist skillet with cooking spray and add meatballs and onion. Cook, turning occasionally, until meatballs are browned and onions are translucent, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaf to skillet, reduce heat to medium and simmer until meatballs are cooked through and sauce is beginning to thicken, about 8 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
Spoon 1/4 cup tomato-meatball mixture into bottom of prepared casserole dish. Toss spaghetti with remaining tomato-meatball mixture and transfer half of spaghetti mixture to casserole dish. Dot tops of noodles in dish with half of basil mixture then cover with remaining spaghetti mixture. Dot top layer of noodles with remaining basil mixture and sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven until bubbling, about 10 minutes. Then remove foil and continue to cook until top is browned, about 10 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.