This Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake Recipe is one your family is going to absolutely LOVE. So easy to make and even more delicious to eat!
You guys, prepare yourselves for THE biggest food coma, because this pasta bake means business. Juicy homemade meatballs buried in a rich tomato sauce, baked with gooey cheese on top. Sounds good right? Follow me.
The star of the show here is indeed the meatballs, as such, it’s important we discuss how to make the most insanely delicious meatballs. I’ve got a detailed post on Homemade Meatballs so definitely check that out, but in summary, here are my 3 top tips for juicy meatballs.
How to make the best meatballs
- Use a Panade (mixture of starch and liquid that you add to meat to keep it moist).
- Use a combo of pork and beef, make sure it’s non-lean and don’t overwork it when making the meatballs.
- Don’t cook them all the way through, allow them to finish poaching in the sauce.
Arguably the most important step is using a panade. This ensures the meatballs stay nice and juicy during and after the cooking process.
How to make a panade for meatballs
- Soak cubed bread in grated onion & garlic, Worcestershire sauce and milk.
- Mash with a fork.
- Add in the rest of your meatball ingredients apart from the meat.
- Stir to combine.
- Gently work in your meat.
How to roll meatballs
When it comes to rolling the meatballs, I recommend getting a tbsp, scooping out all the filling (so you have equal measurements), wet your hands and then roll them. This is the most efficient way and ensures your meatballs are all a similar size.
How to cook meatballs
I discuss this in a little more depth in my guide to perfect meatballs, but the best two methods are either frying or grilling/broiling. Both options allow you to get a nice browning on the outside, whilst not cooking the meatballs all the way through. This in turn allows them to finish cooking by poaching in the sauce.
How to make a meatball pasta bake
- Cook meatballs to get a nice browning on the outside.
- Fry onion, sun dried tomato and garlic in a saucepan.
- Pour in sauce and seasoning. Add meatballs.
- Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Combine with pasta.
- Top with cheese and bake.
It really is that easy!
The meatball sauce itself i’ve kept fairly simple, but rich and delicious enough to hold it’s own. Here are the ingredients:
Meatball Sauce ingredients
- Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Chopped Tomatoes
- Tomato Passata
- Fresh Basil
- Fresh Parsley
Because you’ve browned the meatballs, as they poach in the sauce they’ll inject so much more gorgeous flavour as well.
What Cheese to use?
For this recipe I always use cheddar. You could also do half and half cheddar/mozzarella if you want some extra cheese pull 😋
What Pasta to use?
I LOVE rigatoni in this pasta bake, just for the pure fact that the tubes are wide enough for the sauce to settle in. Any other short cut pasta would work though. Whatever you choose, make sure you only just cook it until al dente. You want it still a little bit hard before you combine with the sauce.
Last tip but not least, there HAS to be garlic bread.
Right, let’s tuck in shall we?
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How To Make Meatball Pasta Bake (Full Recipe & Video)
Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake
- 9oz / 250g Ground Beef (15%+ fat)
- 9oz / 250g Ground Pork (15%+ fat)
- 2 thin slices of White Bread, cubed
- 1/4 cup / 60ml Milk
- 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, finely diced
- 1/2 cup / 35g Parmesan, finely grated
- 1 medium White Onion, grated
- 2 cloves of Garlic, grated/minced
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 tsp dried Oregano
- 1 Egg
- 3/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 24oz / 700g Tomato Passata (pureed tomatoes/tomato puree in the US
- 2x 14oz/400g cans of Chopped Tomatoes
- 8 Sun Dried Tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 medium Onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves of Garlic, finely diced
- 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley, finely diced (plus extra to garnish)
- 1/4 cup Fresh Basil, finely diced
- Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- 10.5oz / 300g Rigatoni (or other short cut pasta)
- 1.5 cups / 150g Cheddar, grated (or cheese of choice)
- Olive Oil, for frying
- Soak bread in milk, onion, garlic and Worcestershire sauce and mush with a fork. Stir in your parsley, parmesan, oregano, egg and seasoning. Gently work in your pork and beef, then form your meatballs. Make sure you don't overwork the meat.
- GRILL/BROIL: lightly spray with oil then pop under grill for 6-10mins or until golden brown. Flip once half way and shake about to evenly cook. Make sure you get a nice colour on them, they don't need to be cooked right through, they will finish poaching in the sauce.
OR FRY: heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and fry for 4-5mins or until golden, shaking frequently. Again, just focus on getting colour and don't worry about being cooked right through.
- Fry onion, garlic & sun-dried tomatoes until soft, then pour in your passata & chopped tomatoes. Add parsley, basil & seasoning, then add your meatballs. Simmer for 15-20mins, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until JUST al dente. You want it still a bit hard.
- Combine with pasta in a baking dish, top with cheese and bake at 200c/390f for 15-20mins, or until golden and gooey.
Quick 1 min demo!
Looking for another pasta bake recipe? Check out my Easy Cheesy Veggie Pasta Bake!