The first recipe that I ever saw from smitten kitchen blog was this one for Baked Rigatoni with Tiny Meatballs. Ever since then I have not only wanted to try this recipe but I have also discovered smitten kitchen to become my absolute favorite savory cooking blog. I love the recipes and the beautiful photos that the author takes. I can’t believe this recipe took me 9 months to try!
Meatballs:1/4 cup milk, 1 slice good white bread trimmed of its crust, 1 pound ground pork, 1 teaspoon chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, 1 egg, 1 cup flour spread on a plate, salt and pepper to season, vegetable oil for frying
For the bèchamel:4 1/2 cups milk, 6 tablespoons butter, 5 tablespoons flour, 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
To finish:1 pound rigatoni, 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/4 cup milk
Begin by making the meatballs. Heat the milk and drop pieces of bread into it. Allow to soak for 5 minutes before squeezing the excess milk and adding the bread to the meat.
Add garlic, parsley, grated cheese, egg, salt, and pepper to the meat and bread.
Mix together and form mini meatballs
Roll the meatballs (15 to 20 at a time) in the plate with flour
Get rid of excess flour by placing the floured meatballs in a strainer. Heat the oil in the skillet and fry the meatballs making sure to brown on all sides. Once the batch is done, transfer to a paper towel and allow the meatballs to drain. Set aside when all are done.
Heat the milk over low heat until tiny bubbles appear. Do not let the milk come to a boil.In a different saucepan, melt the butter over low heat, add the flour and whisk constantly until combined. Add 2 tablespoons of milk at a time to the flour and butter mixture, stirring thoroughly. Repeat 8 more times.
At this point, add the milk in 1/2 cup additions, stirring constantly to keep it smooth. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir the sauce until it thickens. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 and cook the rigatoni according to the instructions on the box. Drain the cooked pasta and add to a bowl. Add meatballs, two-thirds of the bechamel sauce and half the grated cheese. Mix together.
In a buttered baking dish, spread the pasta mixture and pour the milk over the dish. I did not add the milk but just because my mixture was already kind of wet. Top with the rest of the béchamel sauce and grated cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a golden brown crust forms on top