Meatball Casserole

Do you and your family love pasta and meatballs? This cheesy meatball casserole recipe comes together easily with frozen meatballs, marinara sauce, and pasta. Easy with minimal prep making it perfect for busy weeknights! 

overhead italian casserole with text overlay


 

If you love a simple baked pasta recipe, this easy meatball casserole is for you. Topped with mozzarella cheese, and made with store-bought frozen meatballs, marinara sauce and penne pasta, this casserole comes together in just minutes. The perfect meal for the whole family.

serving a pasta dish with meatballs

Why You’ll Love This Meatball Casserole

Meat, cheese, sauce and pasta- what’s not to love? Here are a few reasons why this meatball pasta bake takes the cake.

  • Quick and easy – This casserole is on the dinner table in less than an hour. And there are only 10 minutes of real work involved.
  • Flavorful – With only 4 ingredients, this meatball casserole really does pack a big flavor punch.
  • Versatile – You can use your favorite pasts noodle, pasta sauce and add any special add-ins that your heart desires.
angle of pasta dish with cheese and meatballs on a plate

Simple Ingredients

Here’s a quick-reference check list of the common ingredients you’ll need for this family favorite recipe:

  • Frozen meatballs – look for an Italian meatballs from the frozen foods section of your grocery store.
  • Penne rigate pasta – penne works well for this recipe, however, you could substitute most other medium-sized pastas, like rotini, rigatoni, ziti or gemelli.
  • Pasta sauce – a simple marinara sauce or tomato sauce works well for this recipe, however, feel free to choose a flavor that suits your tastes. If you like a robust sauce, add another 1-2 teaspoons of dry Italian seasoning or garlic powder or onion powder. Or to be a big hit, all of them.
  • Water – water is needed to help the pasta bake and become tender.
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese – you can use either regular or part-skim mozzarella shredded cheese for this recipe. Next time I’ll do a mix of cheese and more cheese.
overhead close up of a casserole

How to Make a Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

One of my favorite parts of this recipe is that it’s super quick and easy. check out exactly how to make it below.

  1. Add pasta and water. In a casserole dish or 9 x 13” pan coated with cooking spray, add the uncooked pasta, water and pasta sauce. Stir these together well.
  2. Defrost meatballs. In your microwave, using the defrost setting, defrost the meatballs. Once the meatballs are no longer frozen, add them to the pasta and sauce mixture. If they aren’t defrosted, they won’t have enough time to cook, but make sure they also aren’t hot, otherwise they won’t be juicy meatballs.
  3. Cover and bake. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the casserole. About half way through baking, stir the mixture to ensure the pasta and meatballs bake evenly.
  1. Top with cheese and bake. Add the shredded mozzarella cheese to the top of the casserole and bake until the cheese is completely melted and light golden brown.
shredded cheese on meatball casserole
  1. Enjoy. Serve with your favorite side salad or vegetables. And I like to add more cheese, specifically freshly shredded parmesan cheese and a fresh hand torn pieces of fresh basil from the garden.

Meatball Casserole Serving Suggestions

This baked pasta dish is fantastic served with your favorite green salad with Italian dressing. It can also be paired with fresh or frozen vegetables, like steamed broccoli, green beans or peas. And of course, garlic bread.

Here are a few recipes for inspiration:

serving spoon with cheese pull

Storage and Freezing

Storage: When refrigerated in an airtight container or large freezer bag, pasta and meatballs will keep for up to five days.

Freezing: You can also freeze this casserole. Check out my tips for how to freeze a casserole for the best method. Bemindful that pasta and cheese never defrosts or tastes as well as it does freshly cooked.

melted cheese on a meatball casserole

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to brown meatballs before baking them?

When baking frozen meatballs, it is not necessary to sauté them before baking. Make sure the meatballs are thawed and no longer frozen before adding to the sauce.

How long do I bake meatball casserole?

Meatball casserole will need approximately 40-45 minutes at 425 degrees to bake.

When do I add cheese to a meatball casserole recipe?

To ensure the cheese doesn’t over-brown or burn before the pasta is done cooking, it is best to add the cheese the last 5-10 minutes of baking.

Can I use another meat?

You can, even though is a meatball casserole. Use any cooked meat you like as long as it is the same weight. Ground beef, ground turkey, sausage, chicken or anything else you’d like.

Can I make this in the slow cooker?

Sure! Get our your crockpot and follow the same instructions, but cook for an hour or so on low. Check periodically for the pasta to be al dente cooked and tender meatballs.

Is this a keto meatball casserole?

A keto meatball casserole is literally just meatballs, cheese and sauce. No pasta! If you make this, do not add extra water. It isn’t needed since you aren’t cooking pasta. The cooking time will be the same. You can also use zucchini noodles, but it won’t need the extra water either.

collage of meatball casserole images for pinterest

More Easy Recipes

We love casserole recipes, here are a few more!

overhead of sausage pasta in a serving bowl

Spinach Sausage Pasta

Spinach Sausage Pasta is an easy pasta recipe packed with spinach, fennel seeds, sausage, garlic and onion.
See The Recipe!
overhead shot of pasta in a white bowl

Creamy Cajun Pasta Recipe

Creamy Cajun Pasta is seriously AH-MAZING and only takes 20 minutes! Rotini covered in a cream sauce with Cajun seasoning, smoky andouille sausage, sautéed peppers, red onion and grape tomatoes.
See The Recipe!
close up of lemon pasta with asparagus

Creamy Lemon Pasta

Creamy Lemon Pasta is an easy 20-minute dish using lemon, asparagus and one secret ingredient to give the cream sauce pizzazz.
See The Recipe!
cheesy meatball casserole recipe for pinterest
angle of cheesy meatball casserole

Meatball Casserole

4.27 from 42 votes
Cheesy Meatball Casserole comes together w/ frozen meatballs, marinara sauce, and pasta. Minimal prep makes it the perfect weeknight dinner! 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 14-32 ounces bag of frozen meatballs
  • 24 ounces jar of marinara sauce
  • 1 pound box of penne pasta (16 ounces)
  • 3 cups water
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese , shredded

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly spray a casserole dish or 9 x 13” pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large microwave safe bowl, add the frozen meatballs. Using the defrost setting, defrost the meatballs for 5-7 minutes or until completely thawed.
  • To the prepared baking dish or pan, add the uncooked pasta, pasta sauce and water. Using a rubber scraper, stir to combine. Add in the thawed meatballs.
  • Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes, stirring the casserole halfway through baking.
  • Remove from oven and top the casserole with the shredded cheese. Bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and light golden brown.
  • Let the casserole cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

Video

Notes

It is important to cover the baking dish with foil when baking. This will keep the steam in the baking dish and allow the pasta to cook evenly and become tender. If baked uncovered, the pasta will become dry, tough, and only partially cooked.

Nutrition

Calories: 595 kcal, Carbohydrates: 63 g, Protein: 31 g, Fat: 24 g, Saturated Fat: 10 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9 g, Cholesterol: 77 mg, Sodium: 822 mg, Potassium: 724 mg, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 6 g, Vitamin A: 751 IU, Vitamin C: 8 mg, Calcium: 235 mg, Iron: 3 mg
Author: Erin Indahl-Fink
Calories: 595
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: meatball casserole
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.27 from 42 votes (35 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    This turned out great! The only thing I changed was used 1/2 Alfredo and 1/2 marinara. Will definitely be making this regularly!

  2. 5 stars
    I am always looking for an easy yet yummy weeknight dinner idea for my family. I love that this dish involves minimal prep work and is done in under an hour.

  3. 5 stars
    Seriously the easiest weeknight recipe ever. We always have homemade meatballs in the freezer (my husband is Italian so that’s the only kind he will eat) and I love not having to boil and drain pasta.