The flavors of the pasta in this dish are simple and subtle so that the real stars are the smoked mozzarella stuffed meatballs. I had my reservations about using smoked mozzarella. I've only had it once before, when I melted huge slabs of it over portobello mushroom caps. At the time I remember thinking that I'd be avoiding it from now on. I think it was just too much and the smokey flavor too overwhelming. I am so glad now that I didn't opt for plain old mozzarella with this one. Those unassuming little half-inch cubes in the center of each meatball were so savory, with just a hint of smokiness.
I added a few small chunks of the leftover mozzarella to our Friday pizza and I used the rest with some grilled burgers which I also topped with caramelized onions.
Fettucini Amatriciana with Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs
(This is only slightly adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe. Hers is titled differently since she uses bucatini pasta.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 oz) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/3 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 pound long pasta (bucatini, fettucini, or linguine)
For the sauce: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the pancetta and reserve. To the same pan, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in the garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and the cooked pancetta. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.
For the meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine mix together all ingredients except the beef. Mix in the beef and combine all ingredients thoroughly. Shape the meat mixture into meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches) and place on the baking sheet. Make a hole in the center of each meatball and place a cube of mozzarella inside. Reform the meatball so that the mozzarella is completely covered with the meat mixture. Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce until pasta is well coated. Top with the additional parsley and Parmesan, if desired.