Bell Pepper and Tomato Penne with Meatballs Recipe

Another one from Cooking Light. This recipe illustrates how layering salt throughout cooking brings all the flavors of a dish together. The pasta cooks in salted water. The sauce gets seasoned at a couple of steps along the way--first to enhance the flavor of the onion and bell peppers, and later to tame the sharpness of the tomatoes and vinegar.


  • Meatballs:
  • 1 (3/4-ounce) slice firm white bread (such as Pepperidge Farm)
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • cooking spray
  • Sauce:
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup julienne-cut yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienne-cut orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 cups chopped seeded plum tomato (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1/4 cup quartered pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Pasta:
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces uncooked penne (about 2 cups tube-shaped pasta)


Preheat oven to 400°. To prepare meatballs, place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until fine crumbs measure 1/2 cup. Combine breadcrumbs, 1/3 cup onion, and next 8 ingredients (1/3 cup onion through beef); stir well to combine. Lightly coat hands with cooking spray. Shape beef mixture into 20 (1-inch) meatballs. Place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until done; cover and keep warm.

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add bell peppers and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 2 minutes. Add tomato and next 6 ingredients (tomato through black pepper); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 13 minutes or until sauce thickens. Stir in basil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add meatballs; stir to coat.

To prepare pasta, while sauce cooks, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan; add 1/8 teaspoon salt and pasta. Cook 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Serve meatball mixture over pasta.