Beef/ Casseroles/ Pasta/ Popular

Meatball Pasta Bake

Here’s comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.

Here's comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.

Ready for a meatball pasta bake? This one will feed you for days with its cheesy goodness and meatball heartiness. And we’re gonna go with versatility on this one. If you’re not too fussy and want to keep it super simple and hassle-free, this can be a five-ingredient pasta bake with the store-bought stuff.

Or we can take it up a notch and make our own Parmesan meatballs from scratch because that’s pretty easy too (and so, so, so very yummy). The homemade meatballs can be baked for those looking to be healthy, or pan-fried for those short on time.

If you don’t like jarred marinara sauce, we can jazz that up a bit too.  And finally, you can go with shredded mozzarella for the topping or fresh mozzarella. Remember, this is as simple and delicious as you choose to make it. It all depends on your mood.

Here's comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.

I went with making the meatballs myself because the green shaker Parmesan is a secret ingredient that makes the meatballs delicious. Once you try them out, you might not want to go back.

And like me, you might not be able to order meatballs at restaurants anymore because now you know you can make it better. Plus you might get random declarations of love from your significant other. Cause I know I do when I make them.

I also went with my own marinara sauce because it’s only a couple more ingredients and herbs that I already have in the pantry, so it’s not a big deal to me to tweak it to my tastes. But if you like the jarred stuff, then we can just leave it at that! So let’s begin.

Here's comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.

MEATBALL PASTA BAKE TIPS AND TRICKS

Cook the pasta until it’s just before al dente and rinse it off in cold water when you drain it. We do this step because pasta bakes tend to have soggy pasta if you’re not careful and since it’ll be cooking longer in the oven, we try to avoid this by cooking it until it’s edible but still a little chewy. The oven will take it the rest of the way to al dente.

Now if you’re going with store-bought frozen Italian pre-cooked meatballs, prep it according to directions. Make sure they’re thawed so we don’t add in any excess liquid to dilute the sauce. We’ll be heating up the marinara sauce and letting the meatballs simmer in them for 5 minutes.

If you’re going the homemade meatballs route, mix all the meatball ingredients together and start forming your meatballs with an ice cream scoop and your hands. Use the ice cream scoop to size it up so they’re all the same size (and so you avoid potential arguments on who gets the bigger balls at the dinner table) and then use your fingers to seal off the creases.

I had a little over one pound of ground beef and ended up with about 21 meatballs, so one pound should give you about 16 or so. We’re going to be matching the weight of the frozen meatballs pound for pound.

Here's comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.

Line them up in a baking tray if you’re going to bake them. You don’t need to grease it because even super lean ground beef will render some fat while baking. Bake it at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes.

It’ll cook more in the oven later with the pasta bake. This is by far the easiest way to cook the meatballs because there’s no oil splatter and draining on paper towels. But it also takes a while.

If you’re pressed for time, you can pan-fry it instead. You’ll only need enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan because the meatballs will render some of their own fat to add to this. Roll them around on all sides until they’re browned which should take 5-8 minutes.

I did it in two batches in a 10″ skillet. Drain them on paper towels to remove all that oil and remember to drain any excess oil from the skillet before starting on the marinara sauce.

Here's comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.

Next, we’ll be simmering the meatballs in the marinara sauce. Now, this pasta bake is not very saucy but more like coats the pasta than anything. So if you like saucy-type pasta, add another cup or so of marinara sauce to the mix.

If you’re customizing your marinara sauce, do it before adding the meatballs. Make sure to be gentle when stirring to coat the meatballs fully in the sauce. You don’t want them to fall apart!

Combine the meatballs and sauce with the cooked pasta and mix well but gently. I did this in the casserole dish itself. Less washing! Top with mozzarella cheese. Feel free to blanket the pasta bake evenly with mozzarella. I chose to separate them into little puddles of cheese for the pics so you can see what’s inside the pasta bake.

In fact, I encourage you to fully cover it with mozzarella so the exposed meatballs and pasta don’t harden up. That way, it’ll all stay moist. Also, add more cheese if you want to upgrade your mozzarella blanket. I used about one cup, so for maximum cheese, you can go with two cups worth.

You can use shredded or fresh mozzarella. Even mozzarella balls work too. Bake for about 30 minutes to marry the flavors and melt the cheese. If you want a golden cheesy top, broil it on the top shelf of the oven later at 450 degrees for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese browns.

And we’re ready to serve! Top with freshly chopped basil and sneak in some Parmesan cheese if you’re feeling indulgent. That’s it! Happy eating!

MORE MEATBALL RECIPES TO TRY

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Meatball pasta bake in a white casserole dish.

Meatball Pasta Bake


  • Author: The Cooking Jar
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 45 mins
  • Yield: 810 1x

Description

Here’s comfort in a bowl. This meatball pasta bake can be a 5 ingredient recipe with store-bought items or with homemade Parmesan meatballs and marinara sauce.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 16 oz. ziti/penne/rigatoni pasta
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) marinara sauce
  • 1 lb. frozen, pre-cooked Italian meatballs/homemade meatballs (see notes)
  • 8 oz. mozzarella, fresh/shredded
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta until just before al dente.
  2. Drain and rinse pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Simmer the marinara sauce over medium heat in a skillet. Add the meatballs to the skillet, coat them fully in the sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  4. Combine meatballs and sauce with pasta and mix well.
  5. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until cheese has melted and is bubbly.
  7. Dish and serve hot sprinkled with chopped fresh basil.

Notes

Homemade Parmesan Meatballs:
INGREDIENTS:
1 lb. ground beef
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands
2. Scoop out about 1 golf ball sized meatball mixture, roll it in your hands to make meatballs. I used an ice cream scoop
3. If pan-frying: Over medium high heat, brown the meatballs in batches in some oil until evenly browned, about 5-8 minutes.
4. Remove meatballs and drain on paper towels.
5. If baking: Bake the meatballs on a sheet pan at 425°F for 10-12 minutes

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Molly
    July 11, 2020 at 8:36 PM

    This is an awesome recipe! I stirred in some baby spinach before baking. Kind of a cheater’s way of putting the salad in the dinner. It was delicious!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 23, 2021 at 2:38 PM

      Spinach works great with this! I love adding spinach and black olives to my pastas too 🙂

  • Reply
    Brie
    May 13, 2020 at 6:06 PM

    This was great! I love how easy it was!! I made it with homemade meatballs and it turned out delicious 🙂

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 23, 2021 at 2:39 PM

      I’m so glad it was easy to follow! Homemade meatballs are the BEST. That Parmesan is the secret ingredient.

  • Reply
    Alissa Guevara
    April 2, 2020 at 8:24 PM

    Do you cook the meatballs all the way through before baking them in the casserole?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      April 2, 2020 at 9:27 PM

      Yes I do, for the most part. It simmers in the sauce for a couple minutes, doesn’t take that long at all. It’ll finish cooking off when baking it in the casserole for 30 minutes. I like to simmer it in the sauce to have the meatballs absorb some flavor before mixing it all up. If using frozen meatballs, make sure to thaw them beforehand.

  • Reply
    Ginny
    December 17, 2018 at 11:31 AM

    Is it 16 oz cooked pasta or uncooked

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      December 18, 2018 at 3:16 PM

      It’s uncooked in the ingredients but step 1 tells you to cook them till just before al dente (which means a couple minutes less than instructions on the box). This is so the pasta does not come out soggy when it cooks more in the oven. It finishes cooking till al dente then.

  • Reply
    Kellie
    August 20, 2018 at 9:32 AM

    Hello,

    Have you ever made this the night before and baked it the next day? If so, how long should you bake it? Thanks!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      August 20, 2018 at 6:28 PM

      Hey, Kellie! I’ve never done that, sorry. But if you do try it, I would advise to try the time set in the recipe and check later to see if it’s heated through properly. Add more time as needed while keeping an eye on the cheese.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    October 3, 2017 at 11:51 AM

    can this be frozen? If so what are the alterations that need to be made?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 5, 2017 at 6:25 PM

      Good question. I personally haven’t tried freezing pasta before but it should work. It just won’t taste as great as freshly prepared, you know? I would suggest freezing after step 4. To cook, maybe bring it out of the freezer and let it sit in the fridge overnight then continue with step 5 onwards. Good luck!

    • Reply
      Zac
      August 2, 2021 at 5:09 PM

      Yes I use frozen meatballs in mine. I heat sauce to just a simmer, add meatballs and simmer for 5-7 minutes (depending if I pulled out meatballs early). I also use two jars of sauce.

  • Reply
    Jim Thompson
    August 21, 2017 at 7:34 PM

    I tried your meatball pasta bake this evening instead of using meatballs I substited 93%ground beef and a1/3 of a pack of sweet Italian sausage and than the rest of the ingredients it came out so good that my family eat it all

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 2, 2017 at 4:34 PM

      That’ll work too! It all depends on how you want your meat spread out. Big balls to spoil yourself with or evenly distributed meat to share with 😉

  • Reply
    Lea Harrison
    December 27, 2016 at 9:35 AM

    My kids love meat ball pasta so much! thanks for sharing the recipe! Gotta try this at home!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      February 20, 2017 at 10:39 AM

      You’re welcome, Lea. Hope you managed to find some time to try it out!

  • Reply
    Megan @ Pip and Ebby
    May 3, 2016 at 9:42 PM

    This looks like a keeper! Comforting, yummy and leftover-producing! 🙂 Three of my favorite things.

  • Reply
    Sally
    March 9, 2016 at 3:31 PM

    Made this the other day and my husband loved it!!!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 20, 2016 at 4:58 PM

      Thanks for trying it out, Sally! Always excited to hear first time feedback on new recipes 🙂

  • Reply
    Susan
    March 2, 2016 at 4:47 AM

    did you have any recommend about salad eat with this PASTA BAKE. i want make this for
    tomorrow lunch

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 3, 2016 at 2:08 PM

      Hmm, I wish I did but I’m not an expert on salads. Maybe something light and not too rich so you can save the flavor for the pasta bake?

  • Reply
    Muna Kenny
    February 22, 2016 at 5:39 PM

    I was thinking about making meatballs for dinner, I ended up not making it, and now looking at your clicks I’m craving some 🙁 … I love how you talk about the dish you make, it makes me want to it right away 🙂

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 3, 2016 at 2:06 PM

      It takes practice to lure in people with honeyed words and promises of a happy belly! 😀

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