Cheesy meatball pasta bake designed to please young and old, penne pasta in an easy tomato sauce, beefy meatballs and gruyere cheese.
A simple recipe of 3 elements, pasta, sauce & meatballs that can all be made days in advance before throwing in the oven.
Cheesy Baked Penne with Meatballs
It’s hard to beat a good old-fashioned pasta bake recipe for comfort food goodness. Big bowls of cheesy comforting pasta in a sauce and a bit of protein.
As a student, I’d make massive tuna pasta bakes and eat them for days. This beef meatball pasta bake is scaled back in size and makes two generously portioned individual meals.
The meatballs are a shift away from the meatballs that I use in my spaghetti and meatballs recipe. They use only beef and are super simple but the addition of sundried tomatoes adds a lovely deep flavour to them.
I usually make a double batch of meatballs when I am making this recipe and freeze them up and throw them into a variation of my meatball soup.
You could also use them to stuff my BBQ stuffed onions too!
The sauce is a picture of simplicity. Some oil infused with garlic, beef stock, tomato passata and some herbs, add a pinch of sugar and season with salt and you are good to go.
Finally a cheesy topping, and into the oven… Grab a glass of what you fancy and dinner is served.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a different pasta?
Of course, but no one likes slimy, soggy pasta, so go for something with some body and structure. My choice is usually penne or rigatoni, you could also go for something like orecchiette or even fusilli
How much salt should I add to the sauce?
This will really be defined by your stock. We are reducing this by half to increase the beef flavour in our tomato sauce, but this also increases its saltiness. Have a taste and add salt as you see necessary, it is often very little or none at all.
How far can I make this in advance?
The meatballs can be made up to 3 or 4 days in advance and kept in the fridge. They can also be frozen for 3 months and defrosted the night before cooking.
The sauce can also be made 3 to 4 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Can I use a different cheese?
Yes. I love the almost sweet and nutty flavour of Gruyere cheese, it is my favourite cheese to add to polenta. I also think that it matches really well with pasta dishes.
But you could use something like raclette, comte, or even shredded mozzarella, the latter has the least flavour.
This easy meatball pasta bake recipe really is the epitome of a complete meal.
It is rare for me to hanker after serving it with anything although my wife always wants to eat this with garlic bread because that’s the kinda lass she is!
I do however like to top with either some shredded or chiffonade, to give it a fancy name, of basil.
Simply take 10-12 large basil leaves and roll them up like a cigar, then slice into ribbons 1-2mm thick.
This also works really well with a sprinkling of peppery rocket (arugula for my American readers) or watercress.
I only mention brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.
- Oven or air fryer.
- Baking tray if you are cooking the meatballs in the oven.
- 28cm or 11″ frying pan.
- 20cm or 8″ saucepan.
- Mixing bowl.
- Chopping board.
- kitchen knife.
- Weighing scales and or measuring, just cups and spoons.
- Stirring and serving spoons.
- 1 Litre (1 quart) baking dish or 2 X 500ml (2 cup) gratin dishes.
A pasta bake is such a comforting recipe and this beef meatball pasta bake is gloriously tasty, cheesy and very comforting!
For The Meatballs:
- 250g (9oz) Minced Beef
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- 1 Egg Yolk
- ½ Tsp Dried Oregano
- 25g (2 Tbsp) Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil
- 10g (2 Tbsp) Dried Bread Crumbs
- ½ Tsp Salt
- ¼ Tsp Pepper
- Spray Oil
For The Sauce:
- 250ml (1 Cup) Tomato Passata
- 125ml (½ Cup) Beef Stock
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil or Oil form the Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Pinch Sugar
- ½ Tsp Dried Thyme
- ½ Tsp Dried Basil
- ½ Tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 Tsp Dried Parsley
- Salt to taste
And The Rest:
- 150g (~1⅓ Cup) Penne Pasta
- 75g (¾ Cup) Gruyere Cheese
- Bring a 20cm or 8" saucepan of salted water (1½ teaspoons in a pan this size) to the boil.
- Chop the sun-dried tomatoes into a 2-3mm (⅛) dice and place in a bowl.
- Mash the garlic cloves and add to the bowl with the sun-dried tomatoes.
- Add the remaining ingredients for the meatballs and mix well.
- Form this mix into 14 meatballs approximately 25mm (1") in diameter.
- Spray the meatballs and bake in a fan-assisted oven at 200°C or 400°F for 10 minutes. 220°C or 450°F in a conventional oven. You can also do this in an air fryer at 200°C or 400°F for 7-8 minutes.
- By now the water should be boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente, approximately 60-90 seconds less than the packet instructions. This will be around 8-10 minutes.
- Heat a 28cm or 11" frying pan or skillet over a medium-high heat and when hot add the cooking oil for the sauce.
- Crush the garlic cloves with the heel of your hand, add them to the oil in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the beef stock for the sauce and reduce by half.
- Add the tomato passata followed by the dried oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, and a pinch of sugar.
- Have a taste and season with salt to your liking (remember we are adding lots of cheese)
- Reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes.
- By now all of the elements should be cooked, combine them together in a 1-litre (1 Quart) ovenproof bowl to bake them in. I personally prefer two individual 500ml gratin dishes but a 24cm skillet would work just as well.
- Grate and sprinkle over the Gruyere cheese and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 180°C or 350°F.
- Add lots of fresh basil if you can get some before serving.
Using the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes works exceptionally well in this recipe.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1069Total Fat: 54gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 245mgSodium: 1951mgCarbohydrates: 75gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 60g
Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.