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Bored of Lunch’s Air Fryer Meatball and Mozzarella Orzo Bake

Ready in just 30 minutes, this speedy meatball pasta bake can be whipped up on a weeknight for a hearty, flavour-packed dinner.


This is a brilliant one-pot dish that involves making orzo in your air fryer. Yes, I know that sounds crazy but please trust the process. With no need to brown your meatballs in a pan first and no extra pots for your pasta, you’ll have hardly any washing-up for this and it’s brilliantly quick for a pasta bake, too. Cheesy meatball goodness in just 30 minutes.

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400g lean beef mince
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 onion, finely chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 egg
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes or 700g passata
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
4 garlic cloves, crushed
handful of fresh basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
350ml hot chicken stock
175g orzo
60g mozzarella, torn
salt and pepper, to taste

Essential kit

You will need an air fryer.


438 calories per serving.

Combine the mince, breadcrumbs, onion, chopped basil and egg together in a large bowl, then mould into meatballs. Air-fry the meatballs for 7 minutes at 200°C, then add in the tomatoes/passata, tomato purée, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, basil, salt and pepper, and cook for a further 3 minutes. If you have a large air fryer, you can do this in an ovenproof dish; if not, use the air fryer basket without the tray in place.

Pour in the hot chicken stock, then move the meatballs to one side, add in the orzo and readjust so the meatballs are evenly spread. Air-fry for a further 10 minutes.

Top with mozzarella, allowing the residual heat to melt it slightly. Garnish with fresh basil and serve with a side salad.

Tip: if you want really oozy mozzarella on top, you could scatter it over while still in the air fryer and sir-fry for a further 4 minutes.

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