Balti Inspired Baked Macaroni and Meatballs

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The darker days and colder weather were somewhat bearable during the holidays with the glow of Christmas lights and permission to indulge just a little. Now the days are just cold and dark. Baked pasta is a perfect dish for this time of year.

Actually baked pasta is great anytime, I love the smokiness you get from cooking it on the barbecue, but it’s just as lovely done in the oven. I have to thank my husband for introducing me to cooking pasta this way when we first met. Pasta was always something that was cooked on the stove or in a wok and served with butter and spice or a sauce. But take that dish and layer it with cheese and bake it in the oven and you have a whole different meal. Baked pasta is a family favourite and usually doesn’t last long in our home.

When the folks at Pataks send along some new sauces to try I was immediately drawn to their Tomato & Cumin cooking sauce based on a traditional Balti recipe. Of course my first thought was how this sauce would be perfect as a base to baked pasta, giving a family favourite a little Indian twist.

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The nice thing about a baked pasta dish is that you can customize it anyway you want, using whatever ingredients you have in your refrigerator. Meatballs are something I like to make in bulk and freeze in small bags for just about anything. They are perfect to add into a pasta dish with some cooked peppers, just reheat them in the oven while you are cooking your pasta. After you’ve drained your pasta add in the meatballs, peppers, and Pataks’ Tomato and Cumin sauce and mix.

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You could probably just serve your dish as is but I prefer the baked variety. The secret to baking a pasta dish is alternating the pasta and the cheese, creating a layer of cheese over each layer of pasta, like you would when making a lasgna. This ensures the cheese gets added through your whole dish versus just on the top. Of course your top layer has to be cheese.

I usually bake my pasta in the oven set at 350F for about 20-minutes. This isn’t about cooking the food as you’ve done that already, this is about letting the flavours of everything blend under the heat and of course melt the cheese. End your cooking under the broiler for about 5 to 10-minutes to crisp-up the top of the pasta and cheese, my favourite part of any baked pasta dish. It’s liked the fried bread circles from toad-in-a-hole. Mmm.

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The Pataks Tomato & Cumin sauce adds a little spice, almost like a chili. The kids devoured their serving and requested the leftovers for lunch. This Tomato & Cumin Baked Pasta dish offered a nice Indian twist to a family favourite. I can’t wait to try this on the barbecue too.

Disclosure: I am part of the Patak’s Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions and experiences on this blog are my own.

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