weekend meal: baked rigatoni with tiny meatballs

For me, embarking on a new recipe almost always has to do with a phenomenal picture of the finished dish, complete with garnish and maybe even a pretty place setting.  Well, the pictures for this dish were quite nice, but in all actuality, this recipe had me at “tiny meatballs.”  I was intrigued — why were they tiny and what were they doing in a pasta dish covered in bechamel sauce?  I had to find out.

So I attempted SK’s baked rigatoni with tiny meatballs with an enthusiasm I usually reserve for Target shopping sprees and Awkward Family Photos.  And while I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the results, it took both Nate and I working in tandem upwards of two hours to complete this complex (overly, perhaps?) dinner.

You begin by making the tiny meatballs, the first step being to heat milk, drop in bits of white bread, let them soak in the milk, and then squeeze the milk out of them.  This may be a crucial step, but as a person who has made a number of meatball recipes, I have never, ever had to soak the bread (which is a common element) in milk.  So, in theory, you should be able to leave this out.  Also, this recipe implies that you must squeeze HOT milk out of bread.  With your bare hands.  Ouch.

The rest of my beef with this recipe is that the bechamel sauce is nothing like what I’m used to.  Instead of a thick, creamy sauce that one would spread over such delicious dishes as pastitsio and mousaka, it is thin and runny.  So thin and runny, in fact, that as I poured it over the pan filled with pasta and meatballs (as the recipe directs), I was pretty positive that the meal was ruined.  A quick look at SK’s pictures, however, eased my fears and only added to my puzzlement — since when is bechamel so liquidy?  If I make this meal again, I’ll definitely follow Mario Batalli’s bechamel sauce recipe, which appears to yield a creamy, alfredo-like sauce — just like Mom used to make.

With a few adjustments, I think this recipe could be perfecto.

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