On chilly winter nights, nothing beats a warm meal made from scratch. The problem is, most of those chilly winter nights are weeknights, when making an elaborate comfort food meal feels darn near impossible – many of our favorites require so many pots, pans, and baking dishes that by the time we’re done doing the dishes after we eat it’s already bedtime! That’s why we love one-pan meals, like this meatball casserole from Martha Stewart. It delivers on big flavor, but everything is made in one pan, so you won’t be left elbow-deep in sudsy dishes when you really want to be on the couch watching tv.
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The meatballs themselves are fairly traditional, a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. They’re bound with eggs and breadcrumbs, and they get a flavor boost from grated pecorino cheese, garlic, and parsley. They get sauteed in your skillet (we like Ina Garten’s favorite cast-iron Lodge skillet, or this fancier enameled cast iron skillet from Le Creuset) until they’re browned all over, then they’re removed from the pan.
All of those brown bits on the bottom of the pan add flavor to the tomato sauce, which is made in the same skillet from onion, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes. The meatballs are added back to the pan and are simmered in the tomato sauce until they’re cooked through. As they simmer away, the meatballs flavor the sauce and the sauce infuses the meatballs in a tasty exchange.
Fresh mozzarella is added on top of the meatballs when they’re done cooking, and then the skillet is transfered to the broiler, where the fresh mozzarella melts into milky puddles of creamy flavor (you could also add a handful of shredded low-moisture mozzarella and extra pecorino if you’re craving some of that browned cheesy flavor).
Normally, we’d serve meatballs with spaghetti or another pasta, but Stewart has another dish-saving idea. She recommends serving this easy one-pan meatball casserole with toasted bread instead. That’ll save you the pasta pan and strainer in your cleanup, and sturdy slices of crusty bread are just the tool you need to scoop up the tender meatballs, fragrant sauce, and melted mozzarella.
It’s the type of meal that’ll taste like you spent all day cooking, but really, you’ll be eating dinner in about an hour. It’s a good thing!