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Beef/ Cheese/ Hearty Dinners/ Pasta/ Pork

Meatball Pasta Bake

March 8, 2019 (Last Updated: January 8, 2021) by Chris Collins

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!

Meatball Pasta Bake fresh out the oven garnished with parsley

Meatball Pasta Bake

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. After trying this meatball pasta bake you’ll never have to wonder ‘what to serve with meatballs for dinner?’ ever again! Here’s why you’re going to LOVE it:

  • Homemade Meatballs – Here I’ll show exactly how to easily get soft and juicy homemade meatballs.
  • Flavoursome – Not just a cheesy pasta bake, the entire dish is BURSTING with flavour!
  • Family Dinner – Perfect to feed a family and easily made ahead of time!
Can I use Store Bought Meatballs instead of Homemade 🤔 – Before we go any further, just a note to say you absolutely can use store bought meatballs for this recipe! I do however recommend you pick up some quality meatballs, I wouldn’t get cheap ones for this recipe as they are the star of the show.

Scooping out meatball and pasta with cheese pouring down spoon

Homemade Meatballs

For this pasta bake I do make my own meatballs, just because it’s too easy and delicious not to! 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

  1. Use a Panade (mixture of starch and liquid that you add to meat to keep it moist).
  2. Use a combo of pork and beef, make sure it’s non-lean and don’t overwork it when making the meatballs.
  3. 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. Here’s how easy it is to make a panade:

How to make a panade for meatballs (quick summary)

  1. Soak cubed bread in grated onion & garlic, Worcestershire sauce and milk.
  2. Mash with a fork.
  3. Add in the rest of your meatball ingredients apart from the meat.
  4. Stir to combine.
  5. Gently work in your meat.

How to make a Panade - 5 step by step photos

Top Tip #1 – 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.
Top Tip #2 – The best two methods for cooking meatballs 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 Meatball Pasta Bake

Right, meatballs out the way, let’s talk pasta bake. Here’s what you’ll need:

Meatball Pasta Bake Ingredients

  • Meatballs
  • Pasta
  • Cheese
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Tomato Passata (pureed tomatoes in US) & Chopped Tomatoes
  • Onion & Garlic
  • Basil & Parsley

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.

How to make a meatball pasta bake (quick summary)

  1. Cook meatballs to get a nice browning on the outside.
  2. Fry onion, sun dried tomato and garlic in a saucepan.
  3. Pour in sauce and seasoning. Add meatballs.
  4. Simmer until the sauce starts to thicken.
  5. Combine with pasta.
  6. Top with cheese and bake.

How to make Meatball Pasta Bake - 6 step by step photos

What to serve with Meatball Pasta Bake?

Can I prepare Meatball Pasta Bake in advance?

Absolutely! I recommend cooking everything, but allowing it to cool before combining in the dish (just so the pasta doesn’t bloat and the sauce thins). It’s also extra important to only cook the pasta until al dente if you’re resting it over night. Just cool, combine and cover in the fridge and add 5-10 mins onto baking time if cooking straight from the fridge!

If you like the sound of this meatball pasta bake, definitely make sure you check out my Easy Cheesy Veggie Pasta Bake, Chicken Pasta Bake, Taco Pasta Bake and Broccoli Pasta Bake! If you’re looking for more similar recipes give these a ganders too:

Unique Meatball Recipes

Alrighty, let’s tuck into the full meatball pasta bake recipe shall we?!

Meatball pasta bake served on a white plate with garlic bread in the background

How To Make Meatball Pasta Bake (Full Recipe & Video)

Scopping out meatball and pasta with cheese pouring down spoon

Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake

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!
5 from 6 votes
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Servings (click & slide): 5
Course: Dinner / Main Course
Cuisine: American / Italian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Calories per serving: 689kcal
Cost per serving: ยฃ4 / $5


  • 9" x 13" Baking Dish (or similar size)
  • Large Pot (for boiling pasta)
  • Large Deep Pan
  • Large Mixing Bowl (for meatballs)
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Baking Tray (for meatballs - optional)
  • Tongs
  • Box Grater
  • Sharp Knife & Chopping Board

Ingredients (check list):


  • 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 / 40g 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

Meatball Sauce

  • 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


  • In a mixing bowl, soak 2 slices of cubed bread in1/4cup/60ml milk, 1 medium grated onion, 2 cloves grated/minced garlic, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce and mush with a fork. Stir in 1/4cup diced parsley, 1/2cup/40g parmesan, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1 egg, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. 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 1 medium diced onion, 2 cloves minced garlic & 8 diced sun-dried tomatoes until soft. Pour in 24oz/700g passata & 2x 14oz/400g cans of chopped tomatoes. Add 1/4 cup parsley, basil & seasoning to taste, then stir your meatballs. Simmer for 15-20mins, or until the sauce begins to thicken.
  • Meanwhile, cook 10.5oz/300g pasta in salted boiling water until JUST al dente. You want it still a bit hard otherwise it'll go soft and mushy when baked. Combine with pasta in a baking dish, top with cheese and bake at 200C/390F for 15-20mins, or until golden and gooey. Serve with fresh parsley!

Quick 1 min demo!


a) Perfect Meatballs - Check out my guide to the best homemade meatballs for a more in depth review on how to get soft and juicy meatballs.
b) Best way to form meatballs - Grab a measuring tbsp and scoop out all the filling (just so they all turn out being equal size), wet your hands then roll them in to balls. This is a much more efficient way in comparison to rolling them out one by one.
c) Can I make the whole pasta bake in advance? - If you want to make the whole thing in advance you can, I just recommend allowing everything to cool separately (sauce and pasta) before combining or it'll start to cook the pasta. Also more important than ever to slightly undercook the pasta. Once cool, combine, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge. Add another 5-10mins onto cooking time if cooking straight from fridge.
d) Can I use store bought meatballs? - Absolutely! I do recommend grabbing some good quality meatballs, as they are the star of the show.ย 
e) Al dente pasta - Make sure it's still a little hard after boiling, it'll finish cooking in the sauce. If it's properly cooked beforehand, it'll be too sloppy when it comes out the oven.ย 
f) Garlic Bread - be sure to serve this with my homemade Roasted Garlic Bread!
g) Calories - based on sharing between 5 people, with 1 tbsp olive oil for frying, 15% pork and beef, whole milk and 1.5 cups cheddar.

Your Private Notes:


Nutrition Facts
Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 689 Calories from Fat 355
% Daily Value*
Fat 39.41g61%
Saturated Fat 15.939g80%
Trans Fat 0.866g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.485g
Monounsaturated Fat 15.061g
Cholesterol 282mg94%
Sodium 1143mg48%
Potassium 1310mg37%
Carbohydrates 39.9g13%
Fiber 8.4g34%
Sugar 7.32g8%
Protein 46.4g93%
Vitamin A 4000IU80%
Vitamin C 54.5mg66%
Calcium 470mg47%
Iron 5.4mg30%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
Tried this recipe?Show me how you got on by tagging @dontgobaconmyheart_ on IG and #dontgobaconmyheart
Looking for more?You'll find plenty more delicious comfort food like this in my Debut Cookbook 'Comfy'

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Recipe Rating


  • Reply
    Elaine taylor
    November 18, 2021 at 10:08 am

    Do you have to use pork and beef.

    • Reply
      Chris Collins
      November 18, 2021 at 10:46 am

      I find that combo to be best. The pork gives a rounder flavour and adds richness. If you don’t have it you could give it a go with all beef. C.

  • Reply
    Kelly Anthony
    March 11, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    5 stars
    This meatball pasta bake will be perfect when feeding a crowd. My family will especially enjoy this since they they eat them at least once a week.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 9:33 pm

      Oh perfect! Hope they enjoy!!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    5 stars
    Must say you have a beautiful blog, composition and click angle is fabulous. Coming to the recipe baked pasta with meatball sound an innovative idea and surely a treat to tastebuds.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      That’s very kind of you, thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Mary Bostow
    March 11, 2019 at 5:32 pm

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

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Oh yes! So good for leftovers ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 5:08 pm

    5 stars
    You are totally right. This is the pasta bake my family loves! So delicious. I love the technique of making the best meatballs. Keeper.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks so much Edyta ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    5 stars
    This reminds me of baked ziti dishes I grew up with. I love the addition of the meatballs that make this dish heartier. I know it something my whole family will love.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      It’s definitely family approved! Thanks Vicky ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Tawnie Kroll
    March 11, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    5 stars
    I’m all about this, and I love the step by step photos! Thank you!

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks Tawnie! Glad you find them useful ๐Ÿ™‚