This Italian baked rice is cooked in a tasty meatball sauce, mazzerella and grated Parmesan. Perfect to prepare for a big family dinner. Make it ahead and just pop it in the oven few minutes before serving.
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste
1/2 stale dinner roll (about 70g), soaked in 1 cup of milk
250g beef minced meat
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon grated Pecorino cheese
1 dash white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
300g parboiled rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
100g fresh mozzarella, sliced or cubed
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Tomato Sauce: In a large saucepan over low heat, cook the onions in oil for a few minutes, until just soft. Add passata, stir and bring to simmer. Cover.
Meatballs: Squeeze off the milk from the stale bread and crumble it in a large bowl. Add minced meat, egg, Parmesan, Pecorino, parsley, wine, salt and pepper. Mix well, first with a wooden spoon, then with your hands.
Dampen your hands with a little water, take a small quantity of the mix, the size of an hazelnut and roll between the palms of your hands to form a very small meatball. Drop in the saucepan with the tomato sauce, pushing gently to the bottom. Keep making others up to finish the mix.
Turn down the heat, cover the pan and cook the meatballs in the sauce for 1 hour, over low heat. The sauce will simmer but not boil. Towards the end of cooking time, taste the sauce and adjust seasoning.
Baked Rice: Cook the rice in abundant salted boiling water for half the time, about 10 minutes. Pass quickly under tap to stop cooking and drain well. Transfer to a bowl.
Preheat oven 200 degrees C.
Add the egg to the rice and mix well. Toss with meatball sauce, mozzarella and 2/3 of the grated cheese. Transfer in a 20cm square baking dish and sprinkle the top with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminium foil.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes longer, grilling by the end.
Remove from oven, let stand 20 minutes and serve.
Baked rice is tastier if allowed to stand few hours to 1 day. This way, rice will expand and soak the sauce and the flavor will have the time to mix better. Keep it warm covering with an aluminium foil and pop in the oven just few minutes before serving.