Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

Mini Meatballs in Spicy Red Pepper Sauce

(by Reeni: inspired by Raina of The Garden of Yum)

meatballs:

1 + 1/4 pounds ground beef (85% lean)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/3 cup yellow onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, mined

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, crushed between your fingertips

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

olive oil, for sauteing

sauce:

1 yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup fire roasted red peppers, rough-chopped (3-4 jarred or 2-3 fresh if roasting your own)

1 teaspoon dried thyme or basil, crushed between fingertips

1/2 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add more or less according to your own preference)

1 can (14 ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup half & half or heavy cream (light is ok)

1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme or basil, chopped

1 pound penne pasta

Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. In a large mixing bowl combine all of the meatball ingredients using a fork until well mixed. Roll into 1-inch sized meatballs (1 rounded tablespoon for each) and set on a platter.

2. Make the sauce: In a large, deep-sided skillet saute onion in a few tablespoons oil until translucent, add garlic; saute until fragrant. Remove to a food processor or blender; puree with peppers, dried thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper. Set aside.

3. Heat the same skillet to medium heat and lightly grease. Pan fry the meatballs in two batches until browned on all sides and cooked through the middle. Remove to paper towels to drain.

4. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions in plenty of salted water.

5. Meanwhile allow skillet to cool down and drain grease, if pan is burnt on bottom use a new one, if not add the pureed peppers and beans, cook on medium heat very slowly stirring in half & half a few tablespoons at a time. When all the half & half is mixed in well stir in 1/4 cup of water from the pasta. Bring sauce to a simmer and add meatballs. Simmer five minutes. Add fresh thyme or basil.

6. Serve over penne with plenty of Parmesan cheese and extra red pepper flakes.

Serves 4-5