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An image of the baked pasta with meatballs in a white casserole dish with a blue and white kitchen towel in the background.

Meatball Pasta Bake

This meatball pasta bake is a crowd-pleaser for sure. In this recipe, beef meatballs are cooked in an easy and delicious sauce then combined with pasta and mozzarella cheese.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword easy pasta recipes, meatballs, pasta dinner
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 633kcal
Author Elizabeth


Ingredients Meatballs

  • 1 pound Ground Beef we use ground chuck
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Egg
  • cup Panko Breadcrumbs plain breadcrumbs work well too
  • Oil for frying – enough to cover the bottom of a large, deep skillet with ¼ - ½ inch of oil (about 1-1½ cups depending on the size of the pan) – choose your favorite cooking oil that’s neutral (flavorless) and has a high smoke point – we use canola oil

Ingredients Sauce

  • 1 Small Onion finely diced
  • 4-5 Garlic Cloves minced
  • 24 ounce Jarred Pasta Sauce use your favorite meatless variety
  • 14 ounce can Diced Tomatoes do not drain (we use petit cut)

Ingredients Pasta and Casserole

  • 12 ounces Ziti cooked to package directions for al dente
  • 8 ounces Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley for garnish


Make the meatballs

  • Place the ground beef, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, black pepper, egg and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Mix the ground beef until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Form the beef mixture into balls; make them about 1¼-1½ inch in diameter. Place them on a sheet pan or plate, preferably lined with parchment paper to minimize sticking. Makes approximately 24 meatballs.

Brown the meatballs

  • Add enough oil to a large, deep skillet to cover the bottom by ¼ - ½ inch (about 1½ cups).
  • Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it is hot, but not smoking. Test it by carefully placing one meatball in. If the oil starts gently sizzling around it, it’s ready. Add the rest of meatballs. Leave some space in between them so they are not touching, and you can turn them easily. Cook in batches if necessary.
  • Cook the meatballs for 5-6 minutes until they are browned on all sides. Turn them every 2 minutes or so.
  • Take the skillet off the heat and remove them using a slotted spoon or tongs. Set on a plate or pan. Keep warm by covering loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
  • Don’t worry that the meatballs are not cooked all the way through. They will finish cooking in the sauce.

Make the sauce

  • Let the oil cool for a few minutes, then drain it, but do not wash or wipe the skillet. There should be a thin layer of oil covering the skillet; leave any bits that may remain they will flavor the sauce.
  • Place pan over medium heat, when the oil is hot add the onions. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the garlic, cook 1 minute, stirring frequently.
  • Add the jarred pasta sauce and diced tomatoes, stir well to combine.
  • Gently place the meatballs in the sauce. Raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower heat to medium-low. Cover and cook the sauce, simmering, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Make sure the meatballs are at least 165°F at its thickest part. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure.

Cook the pasta and build the casserole

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • While the meatballs and sauce cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the 1-2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta. Cook the ziti to package directions for al dente. Drain well.
  • Add half of the pasta and half of the meatballs and sauce to a large casserole dish. Stir/toss them gently to combine and arrange the meatballs evenly in the dish.
  • Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese (4 ounces).
  • Then, top with the remaining pasta and the remaining meatballs/sauce (reserve the remaining cheese for the end).
  • Cover the casserole loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes until it is hot and bubbly around the edges.
  • Uncover the dish, top with the remaining cheese and bake 2-5 minutes until melted.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, if desired. Serve and enjoy.


Calories: 633kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 1347mg | Potassium: 883mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 867IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 275mg | Iron: 5mg