‘The Pioneer Woman’: Ree Drummond’s Mini Meatball Pasta Bake Recipe Has 1 Surprising Ingredient

Ree Drummond has some hearty make-ahead meals that are perfect for a busy weeknight dinner. The Pioneer Woman star’s mini meatball pasta bake is easy to prep and assemble in advance, then you can bake it when you’re ready to eat.

'The Pioneer Woman' star Ree Drummond stands at a counter in a brightly shirt during an appearance on the 'Today' show
‘The Pioneer Woman’ star Ree Drummond | Tyler Essary/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Ree Drummond’s mini meatball pasta bake uses 1 interesting ingredient

Drummond demonstrated how to make the mini meatball pasta bake on an episode of The Pioneer Woman, explaining that she was prepping the meal for her kids while she and husband Ladd had “a night on the town.”

She started by making the meatball mixture and added a surprising ingredient. She placed ground beef and sausage in a bowl and added salt, pepper, parmesan, a beaten egg, milk, oregano, and “for a binder,” oats, rather than the traditional breadcrumbs.

She also added fresh parsley and combined the meat mixture before rolling it into mini meatballs and browning them in a skillet. Drummond removed them from the skillet and drained the meatballs on paper towels.

The Pioneer Woman star cooked onions and garlic in another pan until tender, then added a can of diced tomatoes and tomato paste. She also added hot water to thin out the paste, as well as sugar, salt, and pepper.

Drummond added the meatballs to the sauce as well as parsley before assembling the easy casserole, adding chunks of fresh mozzarella and basil.

She placed ziti or mostaccioli pasta in the bottom of a baking dish, then added half of the mozzarella chunks, parmesan cheese, and half of the sauce. Then she repeated the layers, covered the pan with foil, and refrigerated it for her kids to later bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 40 minutes.

Drummond’s recipe includes a note that “If serving immediately, bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese is golden and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.”

She wrote about the recipe in a 2016 Pioneer Woman blog post. “I don’t ordinarily post recipes with such little pictorial detail (translation: I usually post approximately 900 photos with each recipe), but I didn’t want to wait another day before I posted this super simple, super hearty, exceedingly family friendly casserole recipe I made yesterday,” she explained. “It’s got miniature meatballs, carbalicious pasta, and big chunks of mozzarella all throughout, and after you bake it in the oven, the heavens open up. It’s delicious!”

The full recipe is available on the Food Network website.

Ree Drummond’s easy baked ziti is a great alternative to her mini meatball bake

Having an easy go-to pasta recipe that can be made ahead and served when ready can make a weeknight dinner a bit less hectic. Drummond’s simple baked ziti recipe is another pasta bake that can make life easier.

Drummond wrote about her ziti recipe in a 2020 Pioneer Woman blog post, explaining that her family prefers it full of meat. “Baked ziti is a classic baked pasta dish,” she wrote. “It’s basically some kind of tomato or meat sauce baked in a dish with some kind of cheese and, of course, ziti noodles — unless you’re me, then you use mostaciolli noodles.”

She continued, “Some people just use tomato/marinara sauce. That, of course, would never fly in this house. There must be meat. Meat there must be.”

Drummond shared how to make the baked ziti recipe on an episode of The Pioneer Woman, explaining, “Any time I have to feed a bunch of people, I whip it up.”

It came together easily, with a mixture of ground beef, Italian sausage, onions, garlic, canned whole tomatoes, and canned tomato sauce. “You can also do jarred marinara sauce if you have that,” she noted. “Either one will work.” She seasoned the sauce, then let it simmer.

Meanwhile, she made a cheese mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt, and pepper. After cooking and draining the pasta, she assembled everything in layers then baked it for 20 minutes.

You can find the full recipe available on the Food Network website.

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