I have loved posting grilling recipes this summer and as much as I wanted to wait to serve you this Parmesan Meatballs and Orzo in Mozzarella Basil Cream Sauce for Fall, I just couldn’t wait. Some deliciousness is just meant to be to be devoured summer, fall, winter and spring because its just that good and that comforting.
When you are in the mood for comfort food, it doesn’t get much better than a velvety, creamy sauce unless the sauce is infused with fresh basil, garlic and shallots and spiced with hints of Dijon and paprika AND creamified with Parmesan and mozzarella – heavy on the mozzarella – all coating and cradling Parmesan meatballs and tender orzo. Yeah, doesn’t get any better.
You can substitute a different pasta but I especially love the texture of the rice-like orzo with the meatballs and I love how every centimeter of the pasta gets bathed in sauce. Every centimeter. The sauce only uses 1 tablespoon of butter to make a roux while the milk and only 1/2 cup cream are mixed with cornstarch so the sauce is extra thick and creamy without lots of butter. But there still is cheese. You can’t have a mozzarella cream sauce without cheese. and boy, is it so good!
The most time consuming part of this meal is making the meatballs but if you want a super quick meal, you can make the meatballs either to the point of rolling or baking or even use pre-made meatballs (audible gasp! j/k – I’m all about convenience here – whatever gets you to make this sauce!) so when it comes time to make the sauce, the meal can be made in a flash.
And consumed almost just as quickly.
- 12 oz. orzo pasta
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs*
- 1 cup finely freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup dry chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoons dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- a couple splashes of milk
Mozzarella Basil Cream Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small shallot
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups milk (I use lowfat)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley, minced
- 10 basil leafs, chiffonade**
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- fresh basil
- fresh parsley
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Parmesan Meatballs: Preheat oven to 350F degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (for easy cleanup). Add all of the Parmesan Meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix until evenly combined. Form meatballs into heaping 1 tablespoon balls (approximately 40 meatballs).
- Lightly coat the bottom of a large nonstick skillet with olive oil and heat to medium high heat. Brown meatballs on all sides (I did mine in two batches), drain on paper towels then line on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 -15 minute or until cooked through.***
- Meanwhile, cook orzo pasta in generously salted water.
- Mozzarella Basil Cream Sauce: Whisk cornstarch with milk, set aside.
- Melt butter in olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 60 seconds. Sprinkle in flour and cook while stirring for 3 minutes then turn heat to low. Slowly whisk in chicken broth, then milk, then heavy cream, stirring constantly until smooth. Turn heat to medium high and bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring constantly. Stir in Dijon and dry spices and continue to simmer until almost thickened, stirring occasionally. Add peas and continue to simmer until thickened and peas are cooked through.
- Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted, followed by mozzarella cheese until melted. Stir in fresh basil and fresh parsley, followed by orzo and meatballs, adding additional milk if necessary to reach desired consistency. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste.
- Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese, and fresh parsley/basil and lemon (optional).
**To see how to chiffonade basil, click HERE
***Alternatively you can bake meatballs for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through without browning first.
***You can refrigerate raw meatballs or meatballs once cooked to make this a super quick meal to throw together later.
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