Saturday, January 14, 2012

That's a Spicy Meatball!

Do you know what comes in handy? Frozen meatballs. I keep them on hand because my 11 month old likes to eat them from time to time (I cut them into tiny pieces and he gobbles them up). They also come in handy for dinner. The great thing about frozen meatballs is that you obviously keep them in your freezer, so you can use them whenever it's convenient for you. You don't have to use them up before they go bad or before they expire (that is, unless you keep them in your freezer for years because they eventually will go bad and expire). They just wait patiently for you in the freezer until you are ready for them.

I started keeping frozen meatballs on hand before I had any children because I discovered a yummy recipe called Stuffed Meatball Pizza. This is a great pantry-style dinner because besides the fresh basil, you can pretty much keep all of the other ingredients on hand all the time. So, I'm sharing that recipe with you tonight.

The next recipe I'm sharing is one I actually created all by myself just today. I had seen a ton of recipes for slow cooker lasagna and I was so curious to see how well it would actually work. Among other things, I wondered if the noodles would become soggy (they actually don't), and if it would come out looking as nice and layered as traditional lasagna (sorry, it doesn't).

I used the following as my inspiration: my mother's lasagna from my childhood (her lasagna used cottage cheese and eggs), my freezer and pantry (using what I had on hand because I couldn't make the dinner I originally had planned for tonight) and finally, a recipe by Betty Crocker, which you can find here.

I'm actually pretty proud of how my lasagna turned out. It was pretty tasty! It's a lot faster and easier than traditional lasagna.

However, as soon as I started breaking the lasagna noodles to fit my slow cooker, I was absolutely sure that it wouldn't come out looking as pretty as the Betty Crocker lasagna picture. I would definitely like to know how they accomplished the impossible feat of making their lasagna look that beautiful. However, pretty or not, it was yummy and it hit the spot.

As a bonus, I'm including a "recipe" for meatball subs (which is basically a sandwich that requires no recipe at all).

Buon appetito!

Stuffed Meatball Pizza


18 Rhodes Dinner Rolls or 12 Rhodes Texas Rolls, thawed to room temperature
1 egg, beaten
2 cups grated Italian blend cheese, divided
16 ounce package pre-cooked frozen bite-sized Italian meatballs, thawed
1 cup marinara sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves or 1 tbsp fresh
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Parmesan cheese
Extra marinara sauce, for dipping


Spray counter lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Combine 9 dinner rolls or 6 Texas rolls together and roll into a 13-inch circle for bottom crust. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest. Repeat above steps with remaining rolls to make the top crust.

Remove wrap from first dough circle and place the dough in a sprayed 12-inch deep dish pizza pan to cover the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides. Brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle with 1 cup grated Italian blend cheese. Top with meatballs. Drizzle marinara sauce over meatballs and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle with basil and crushed red pepper. Remove wrap from remaining dough circle and place dough over all ingredients. Press edges of bottom and top crusts together to seal.

Brush top crust with beaten egg. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Using a sharp knife, cut 2 vent holes in top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serve with extra marinara sauce for dipping.

Source: This is a Rhodes Bread recipe which can originally be found here.

Notes: The only problem I have had with this recipe is that the bread crust gets done a lot sooner than the inside mixture does. The first time I made this, I pulled out my beautifully browned pizza pie only to discover a cool inside. We ended up microwaving it so that it was hot inside and out. So, here's my suggestion to combat this: heat the marinara and meatballs together either on the stove top or in the microwave while you are making the crusts. So, rather than adding cold fillings, you will be adding warmed fillings. So, your crusts will become lovely and browned and your fillings will be just the right temperature.

The only other change I made was to add fresh basil. The recipe doesn't specify whether fresh or dried basil is being called for. Because only 1 teaspoon is being used, I assumed that it is asking for dried basil. However, the first time I made this, I had a basil plant with a ton of fresh basil leaves, so I used that instead. It tasted so good that I don't think I'll ever make this with dried basil.

This is also one of those great recipes that is even better the next day. The flavors have time to meld and it tastes awesome.

Sarah's Slow Cooker Lasagna


2 eggs
1 (16 oz) container cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded or grated)
2 jars pasta sauce
1/2 lb. lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 lb. frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed and cut in half (or you can use 1 lb. ground beef browned with one diced onion, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning)
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese


In a blender, add two eggs, cottage cheese, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Blend until smooth.

Spray a slow cooker with cooking spray or use a slow cooker liner.

Spread about 1 cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of your slow cooker. Top with enough lasagna noodles to cover the sauce and make a layer that covers the sauce (you will need to break the noodles to fit--the noodles can overlap).

Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the first layer of lasagna noodles.

Top cottage cheese layer evenly with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and place half of the meatballs on top of that.

Evenly pour one cup of pasta sauce over your meatballs. Add more lasagna noodles on top of the meatball/pasta sauce layer, breaking to fit.

Repeat each layer one more time: a layer using the rest of your cottage cheese mixture, followed by a layer using 1/2 cup mozzarella, then a layer using the last of the meatballs, and finally a layer of one cup of pasta sauce.

To finish, top with a layer of lasagna noodles topped with the last cup of your pasta sauce and a final 1/2 cup layer of mozzarella cheese.

Cook on low heat setting for 4-6 hours.

Source: This is my own creation as mentioned above and inspired by my Mom's traditional lasagna recipe and a recipe found on the Betty Crocker website.

Above: Again, it wasn't the prettiest lasagna ever, but it was easy and tasty!

Notes: You can use as many noodles as you would like. I used about half of a one pound box, but if you use a little more than that, it will still work out fine. Also, I only had one jar of pasta sauce, so I improvised for the rest of the pasta sauce. I used two (14.5 oz) cans of Italian stewed tomatoes. I drained them and diced them finely using my kitchen shears (it's really easy--you just cut your scissors right in the can until the tomatoes are cut up). So, I used the Italian stewed tomatoes on the very bottom of the slow cooker and on the very top. The middle layers were Barilla's mushroom pasta sauce. It was really yummy!

I cooked my lasagna for about 5 hours and it was just right. The noodles weren't mushy and the flavors were nicely blended.

Italian Meatball Subs


Italian-style frozen meatballs
Pasta sauce
Mozzarella cheese slices
Hoagie rolls


Place meatballs and pasta sauce in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. Or, you can heat your meatballs and pasta sauce together in a saucepan over medium-high heat until the meatballs are warmed and the sauce is bubbly. If that's not fast enough for you, you can heat your meatballs and pasta sauce together in the microwave until the meatballs are heated through.

Split and toast hoagie rolls.

Place 1-2 slices of mozzarella cheese on the bottom half of each hoagie roll and top with meatballs and pasta sauce. Place the top of the hoagie roll over the meatballs and enjoy!

Source: There's no specific recipe for this. It's just one of those things that I put together myself after enjoying a meatball sub at a deli.

Notes: I didn't include ingredient amounts because it just depends on how many sandwiches you want to make. I would say that per sandwich you would need one hoagie roll, between 4-6 meatballs, just enough sauce to coat the meatballs, and 1-2 slices of cheese. It's as easy as that. It's a great and easy dinner idea to throw together on short notice.


  1. 1. Where did you find my Lasagna recipe or do you just remember watching me make it?

    2. I heard a great tip this week from Diners, Dives & Drive-Ins. Guy F. was talking to the owners of Moochies, right here in Salt Lake. They freeze their summer herbs in little bags. Then they will slice them still frozen and add them to a sauce. It obviously wouldn't work for a salad like Caprese, but I'm looking forward to trying it. Hate to see all of that mint and basil going to waste at the end of the summer.

    3. What brand of frozen meatballs do you buy? They are really hit or miss for me. I've liked one brand really well, but I don't remember what it was. A lot of other likey....not so much.

  2. I don't have your lasagna recipe. I just remember watching you make it and always being intrigued by you mixing eggs into the cottage cheese. For some reason, that image has stayed with me!

    The idea of freezing your herbs is an awesome idea. It would work perfectly in the stuffed meatball pizza recipe.

    I just used Kroger Italian meatballs. I thought they were pretty good, though I have had better.

    I'll have to hunt down a really good homemade meatball recipe because you can make them and freeze them yourself. So, if you didn't like the flavor of pre-packaged meatballs, you could make all of these recipes using homemade frozen meatballs of your own.

  3. Don't forget to check the tuna recipes post right before this one, Mom.

  4. Interesting. I too have been curious about the crock pot lasagna. Sounds yummy!