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You don’t even have to boil the pasta for this easy Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole! With only 5 simple ingredients, family-friendly weeknight dinners don’t get much better than this!

Overhead image of dump and bake meatball casserole on a wooden table

How to Make Meatball Casserole | 1-Minute Video

Cheesy Meatball Casserole

I’m constantly trying to figure out how to serve my family a variety of dinners that:

  • are relatively nutritious;
  • don’t require expensive/weird ingredients;
  • can be prepared in a matter of minutes;
  • and that everyone actually loves.

This dump-and-bake supper is absolutely one of those meals! Italian cuisine (and pasta specifically) is always a big hit in my house. The best part of this comfort food casserole, however, is that YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO BOIL THE PASTA!! Awesome, right?

You literally toss together some dry pasta, some frozen (fully cooked) meatballs, marinara sauce, and water in a big baking dish. Cover it and bake it in the oven while you deal with laundry, homework, feeding the dog, and all of the 18909809832429508 other items on your “To Do” list. Sprinkle plenty of mozzarella cheese on top to melt at the end and get nice and ooey gooey…and dinner is DONE!

Side shot of meatball casserole with pasta in two serving bowls with cheese

How to Make Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

This simple recipe requires just 5 ingredients that you can keep in your kitchen for those last-minute meals when you really don’t feel like cooking.


  • Rotini pasta
  • Marinara sauce
  • Water
  • Frozen meatballs (thawed)
  • Shredded mozzarella

Step 1: Combine Ingredients

In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water and thawed meatballs.

Process shot showing how to make dump and bake meatball casserole

Step 2: Bake

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake in a 425 degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Step 3: Add Cheese

Remove the cover, give the pasta a stir, and sprinkle cheese over top.

Adding cheese to the top of a meatball casserole

Return the dish to the oven for about 5-10 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the pasta is tender.

Close up side shot of a wooden spoon in a dish of dump and bake meatball casserole

What to Serve with Meatball Pasta Casserole

Pair this cozy pasta dish with a side of homemade garlic bread (a family favorite) or focaccia bread! Here are a few more easy ideas that go well with the casserole:

What’s the Best Casserole Dish to Use?

We rounded up the best casserole dishes you can buy, including 2 that I personally own and love! While I use different-sized casserole dishes for different dump-and-bake meals, the Staub Ceramic Rectangular Baking Dish earned the top spot. You can buy it on Amazon for $78.95 or at Target for $79.95. That said, I also love the beautiful, Scandinavian style of the Dansk Kobenstyle Baker, available for $135.

Make Ahead

You can assemble the casserole a few hours in advance, or even leave it covered in the refrigerator overnight before baking. The pasta will start to soften and absorb some of the liquid as it sits, so you may need to decrease the baking time slightly. You don’t want to overcook the casserole or you’ll end up with gummy, mushy pasta.


This casserole is best enjoyed immediately from the oven. Leftovers will  keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. The pasta will dry out a bit as it sits, so you may need to stir in some additional marinara sauce when you reheat the dish.

I do not recommend freezing this casserole because pasta has a tendency to get gummy and mushy when thawed. That said, I know that other readers have frozen leftovers without issue.

Close overhead shot of two bowls of meatball casserole

Recipe Variations

  • I like to use smaller cocktail-size meatballs in the casserole because they’re easier for the kids to eat. That said, you can substitute with larger regular meatballs if that’s what you have available.
  • Turkey meatballs, Italian meatballs, beef, chicken or pork meatballs will all work. Pick your favorite!
  • I use frozen meatballs for convenience, but fresh, fully-cooked meatballs will also work in this recipe.
  • Don’t have rotini? You can substitute with other similar short pasta shapes such as penne or elbows. Just pick a pasta that has a similar cooking time as rotini (about 7-8 minutes recommended on the package) — otherwise you’ll need to adjust the casserole’s baking time in the oven.
  • Cooking for a Smaller Family: Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square pan. Check the pasta after 30 minutes, as it may be done slightly sooner than the larger pan.

Tips for the Best Meatball Casserole Recipe

  • Make sure to thaw frozen meatballs in the refrigerator before adding them to the casserole.
  • Pick a high-quality, flavorful marinara sauce. With only 5 ingredients in the casserole, each individual ingredient is very important! A delicious sauce will yield a delicious meal. I like Rao’s brand, but any similar variety will work.
  • Total cooking time will vary depending on the type of pan that you use and your individual oven. Glass or ceramic baking dishes will take longer than metal pans, for instance. To know when your casserole is done, taste a bite of the pasta. The noodles should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed.
  • Be careful not to overbake the casserole or the pasta will become mushy.
  • Garnish the casserole with fresh herbs like basil or parsley for a bright,  fresh touch. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious!
Close overhead image of an easy meatball casserole recipe

More Dump-and-Bake Casserole Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of a pan of dump and bake meatball casserole

Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

4.84 from 89 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 55 minutes
Servings 6 – 8 servings
Calories 461.4 kcal
​​​​​​​You don’t even have to boil the pasta for this easy Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole! With only 5 simple ingredients, family-friendly weeknight dinners don’t get much better than this!



  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water, and meatballs. Season with salt to taste; stir. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.
  • Uncover; stir. At this point you should check the pasta to make sure that it is al dente (firm but just about finished cooking). If it’s still too hard, cover the dish and return to the oven until pasta is al dente. Then move on to the next step.
  • Sprinkle mozzarella over the top and bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes (or until cheese is melted and pasta is tender).



  • Make sure to thaw frozen meatballs in the refrigerator before adding them to the casserole.
  • Pick a high-quality, flavorful marinara sauce. With only 5 ingredients in the casserole, each individual ingredient is very important! A delicious sauce will yield a delicious meal. I like Rao’s brand, but any similar variety will work.
  • Total cooking time will vary depending on the type of pan that you use and your individual oven. Glass or ceramic baking dishes will take longer than metal pans, for instance. To know when your casserole is done, taste a bite of the pasta. The noodles should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed.
  • Be careful not to overbake the casserole or the pasta will become mushy.
  • Garnish the casserole with fresh herbs like basil or parsley for a bright,  fresh touch. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious!


Serving: 1/6 of the casseroleCalories: 461.4kcalFat: 21.3gSaturated Fat: 8.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.7gCholesterol: 64.9mgSodium: 1106.6mgPotassium: 379.9mgFiber: 3.2gSugar: 8.3g
Keyword: casserole, dinner, Meatball Casserole, Meatballs
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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  1. Wow does this casserole look good, Blair! My husband would love this! I’m always on the hunt for easy weeknight meals, too, so this looks just perfect!

        1. Hi, Denise! I think it would work, but I can’t tell you the exact timing because I’ve never tested it that way myself. If you give it a shot, just make sure that you keep your eye on it so that you can turn it off when the pasta is cooked. If the pasta gets overcooked in the Crock Pot it will just be mushy, which is obviously not what you want. 🙂

          1. I did this In the crock pot and it turned out amazing. I threw everything in and turned it on low for approximately 5-6 hours and it was perfectly done. Noodles weren’t mushy. It was devoured.

          2. That’s awesome, Bre! Thanks for taking the time to leave a note and let me know! I’m so glad that it also works in a Crock Pot!

      1. 5 stars
        This is a great recipe I made it and enjoyed it too I would like to know instead of frozen meat balls can I do meat balls made from ground Italian sausage

    1. It says cook time is 50 minutes but the recipe says total 40 minutes. Does the water have to be hot, cold, room temperature?

      1. Hey, Karen! Sorry for that confusion with the cooking time! I just updated the recipe to correct it. You’ll want to bake it for 30 minutes covered, and then stir, add the cheese on top, and pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so until the cheese melts and the pasta is tender.

        The temperature of your water doesn’t matter. I just use whatever comes out of my faucet — so “room temp,” I suppose?! 🙂


        1. 4 stars
          Hi, I tried this tonight as my children loved it! But you have for it to cook 1st for 35 mins…I did everything you said and I ended up having to put it back in for 20 more mins. Weird.

          1. Hey, Danyell! That is weird that you had to cook it so much longer, but I’m glad that your kids enjoyed it! 🙂

          2. Could your oven temperature be a little off? Was your oven completely preheated?

          1. 5 stars
            I added fennel seeds, a bit of cayenne, dried basil and garlic powder before baking. I used provolone cheese on top and served with good quality parmesan.

            Easy and tasty. 5 stars.

        2. hi what if I do not have a dish like that to bake it in I have a aluminum pan can I still use these ingredients without boiling the noodles

          1. Aluminum reacts with the acid in tomatoes so you would be ingesting aluminum. Please don’t cook acidic foods in aluminum

        1. Hi, Judy! Yes, the recipe calls for frozen, cooked meatballs. If you prefer using your own homemade cooked meatballs, that will work too!

          1. Hi! There’s a full recipe card with ingredients and instructions at the bottom of the post. You’ll need 3 cups of water. Enjoy!

      1. 5 stars
        I used Cattelli gluten free fusilli, kosher salt and 2 cups from a package of mixed shredded cheese – mozzarella, provolone, Gouda and parmesan. Worked perfectly!

    2. Making this right now (12 o´ clock in Belgium).
      Folding laundry whilst waiting.

      I love your dump-and-bake recipes!

      1. That’s amazing, Vera! I love these recipes for the same reason. I’m so glad that you continue to enjoy this old favorite!

  2. This not only looks delicious, but beautiful as well. I can’t wait to try this recipe out. I am going to social media blast this! Thanks for posting it on Jebbica’s World Link Party today.

  3. I want this for dinner tonight!! This looks so delicious and so fast to put together! No noodle boiling? YES! Can’t wait to try this one out!

        1. Do you use regular noodles that don’t specifically say oven ready? Quick reply would be great as I wanna make it tonight!

          1. I never precook my noodles. Instead, use regular pasta and just add water then cook as usual.

  4. 5 stars
    Hiya Blair,

    Saw this recipe at Food & Fitness Fridays and such a nice surprise to discover it was yours! This is delicious looking and wow – your photography is rocking, girl! Great job 🙂

    Have a great weekend!

          1. Hi, Nicole! I’ve used penne in other dump-and-bake recipes on my site (like this one: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/dump-bake-penne-alla-vodka/), and it definitely works well. I would suggest baking the casserole at 425 degrees for a total of about 45 minutes, but check your pasta towards the end because the cooking time can vary depending on a few factors (type of dish, the heat of your oven, type of pasta, etc). Enjoy!

    1. Hi, Kyla! I think that it probably could be made in a slow cooker, but I haven’t tried it myself that way. I would have to play around with the amount of liquid and the cooking time. I’m guessing that about the same amount of liquid and 3-4 hours on LOW would do the trick in the slow cooker, but I definitely have not tested that method. If you give it a shot, let me know! 🙂

  5. I picked 4 easy recipes from the group to make. I am not a young Mother but have been there & done that. As I get older these dishes fit with my lifestyle. I like the idea I can have everything on hand as the Winters here are nasty. I do think Aunt Bee & I would get along. Now saying that, do you think I could get in on the care packages?

    1. I know — she has the best care packages, right?! And easy recipes are always wonderful — no matter how old we are! 🙂

  6. I made this tonight, after 30 minutes the pasta was rather crunchy. Is this normal before putting the cheese on? I know this will be a hit and a “make again” – just want to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong 🙂 also, what size (qt) caserole dish did you use?

    1. Hi! I’m so glad that you tried this recipe. 🙂 By the time that you put the cheese on top, the pasta should almost be done (not crunchy). Did you have it really tightly covered (you want to make sure that the pasta can absorb all of the liquid without it escaping)? Was most of the liquid absorbed by the pasta at that point? It might just need a little bit longer in your oven? Also, the size/type of pasta that you used could make a difference. I have used both rotini and a mini penne, which work well. Something larger would definitely need more time, though.

      For the dish, I used a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Hope that helps, and please keep me posted if you run into any other issues. I want it to work for you because it’s so good! 🙂

      1. I used mini farfalle noodles and they weren’t ready at the 30 minute mark….probably should have cooked longer before adding the cheese :p But using what I had on hand…should have read the comments before trying something different LOL

          1. I had this same experience. Crunchy noodles and annoyed hungry kids. 🙁 I had to add more water and cover again and by the time it was done the cheese was ruined. I wish I’d read the comments first and cooked it longer to begin with!

            Also it would not let me rate it on mobile, I’m sorry. It’s not a no-stArs recipe!

  7. 5 stars
    Hi Blair – this looks awesome! I’d like to make it in my Le Creuset for an Oscars party this weekend… what are the recommended measurements if I want to double the amount?

    1. Hi, Richelle! I would use the following:
      2 (16 ounce) packages uncooked rotini pasta
      2 (25 ounce) jars marinara sauce
      6 cups water
      2 (14 ounce) packages fully-cooked miniature (cocktail-size) meatballs (if using frozen meatballs, make sure that they are completely thawed before using)
      4 cups shredded mozzarella (or Italian blend) cheese

      You will probably need to use two large baking dishes, because I’m not sure that one dish alone will hold everything (unless you have a very deep 9×13-inch dish…that might do the trick)! Cook time should be the same!

  8. 5 stars
    I tried this last week when I had some leftover meatballs. Fed it to some guests for dinner with and it was a hit. The mister is now demanding to have this dish served at least once a week for dinner.

    I packed it for my office lunch the next day as well, so amazing!

    1. Oh, YAY!!! I’m so glad to hear that, Sharday! My husband and boys always love it, too. 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!

  9. Made this for dinner tonight and it was great! Like several others, I had to cook it an additional 20 minutes covered before adding the cheese in order to get the pasta done. Rave reviews from the family! This dish will definitely be a regular in our household! Thank you Blair!

    1. Hey, Ashley! You can definitely make the meatballs for these — just be sure that they are fully cooked before adding them to the casserole. Enjoy!

  10. Hi! my fiancé always wants me to cook so I’m going to try this dish looks great. I never been too much of a cook but now I am trying especially with my new family so Thanks!

  11. I made this for my family and it was excellent! I didn’t change anything and it came out perfect, I was so impressed! Thank you for this recipe.

    1. Awesome! So glad that you liked it, Elizabeth! Who knew dinner could be so easy, right? We’re having this dinner again in the coming week. It’s always a hit!

  12. 4 stars
    I wish I would have read the comments first before attempting this recipe. The picture posted with the recipe is a large casserole dish, but in the comments you stated you used a 9×13 pan. Maybe you could edit the recipe so it states that. I’m another person who ended up with crunchy pasta after the 35 minutes because I didn’t use a 9×13. I just put it back in the oven for another half an hour. I hope it turns out okay.
    I’ll make sure to use a 9×13 next time! 🙂

  13. His is sooooo easy and delish. I cooked for 40 min amd 5 min uncovered and was perfect. It makes a lot so for us two, so we’ll have another dinner ready to go. Thanks for sharing

    1. Awesome! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, Diana! I hope that you’ll try some of my other dump-and-bake dishes on the blog, too!

  14. So if I were to add onions (new cook here) should i saute them first a little? Or just let them cook with the noodles?

    1. Hey, Katie! You can actually do it either way. If you dice the onion small enough, the pieces should soften as the pasta cooks and you won’t even need to saute them first. That said, it definitely will not hurt to saute them first. It would just add another layer of flavor and make them even more tender. Just depends on how much time you want to spend on the prep! 🙂

  15. I just tried this tonight and it was great. I used the large rectangle dish to cook it in and it was perfect. Since we re two old people it certainly made too much. Any idea if anything changes if I half everything. Wondering about the time if that would stay the same.

    1. Hi, Pat! Yes, you can definitely cut the recipe in half and bake it in an 8-inch square pan. The cooking time should be about the same! 🙂 So glad that you enjoyed it!

  16. What a great combination of meatballs and rotini pasta! Should i put the leftovers in refrigerator? how long will this dish last?

    1. Hi, Lisa! Yes, you can put the leftovers in the refrigerator (or cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller dish if you don’t want too much left over).

      It should keep in the refrigerator for at least a few days! 🙂 Enjoy!

  17. I am one of those people that mskes everything from scratch, preps a weeks woeth of dinners to freeze, and makes my own broth. I’m gonna try this using my beef broth instead of water. Also I just prepped this weeks dinners yesterday and had 2 lb homemade meatballs left over. This is perfect. Thanks so much for the recipe.

    1. Hi, Lori! I SO admire your time and dedication to making everything from scratch. Your family is so blessed, and I know that it’s not easy. 🙂 I think that your meatballs and homemade stock will be delicious in this recipe. Enjoy!

  18. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this dish, not having to cook the noodles is awesome and it’s so easy to always keep these ingredients on hand when I need a quick supper. I use a Corningware oval baker and I leave it in the oven for closer to an hour and it works great. Plus, 425F is also the perfect temp for cooking frozen garlic cheese bread so I can just put together a quick salad and have pasta, bread and salad for an easy meal. Plus leftovers heat well for lunches the next day. Seriously, this could be once a week at my house!

    1. Christine! I’m so glad that you love the dinner! It’s definitely one of our go-to options as well, because it’s just so darn easy! Thanks so much for sharing your tips about the garlic bread and salad. Such a great meal!

  19. This came out perfectly!!!! … I added some cottage cheese in on top before baking. Thanks for posting the recipe!

  20. I am interested in making this recipe. However , I am wondering why it is necessary to thaw the frozen meatballs since it is cooking for awhile. Thanks. It does look delicious!

    1. Hi, Alexandra! I hope you’ll give it a try! You want to thaw the meatballs because if you try to bake the pasta with frozen meatballs throughout, it’s like trying to boil pasta with a bunch of ice cubes in the water. It will take everything a lot longer to come to temperature and bake through. 🙂

  21. I made this today. Of course, I can NEVER follow a recipe exactly…it’s just not who I am. I only look up recipes for inspiration and then decide how I’ll do it. So…my tweaks: I put the pasta, sauce, and my homemade unsalted chicken broth (instead of water) in the oven for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, sauteed chopped onions on high heat in a cast iron pan just to get a bit of char on them…removed them, then sliced my Costco frozen (thawed) meatballs in half and gave them a char on each side in the same cast iron pan. Took the noodle mix out of the oven (the pasta wasn’t yet done and there was plenty of liquid left in the dish) and stirred in the onions and meatballs. Put the foil back on and baked for about 15 more minutes. Removed the foil….added the shredded cheese on top. Covered that with a mixture of 1 cup Panko bread crumb mixed with 1 tablespoon of melted butter and 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Cranked up the oven to 500 degrees to melt the cheese and brown the panko coating. Took it out and sprinkled fresh sliced basil leaves all over the top. FANTASTIC! My husband, son, grandson, and I all agreed it’s a fantastic dish. One warning…some have asked about doing this in a crockpot. I haven’t but, since I had to leave it in the oven on ‘warm’ because my husband was very late from work, the pasta got a little ‘pasty’. I don’t think this would hold up in a crockpot. Blair…I’ll be trying more of your ideas!!

    1. Hey, Debra! Your tweaks sound perfect!!! Thank you so much for sharing! The crumb topping is a great idea! You can never go wrong with some butter, cheese, and breadcrumbs. 🙂 So glad that you enjoyed the meal, and I hope that you’ll try some of our other dump-and-bake dinners as well!

  22. Blair – I have a question- Can all the ingredients be mixed together in the pan in the morning, then refrigerated and then baked late afternoon?

    1. I have never stirred it all together in advance because I worry that the dried pasta will absorb liquid as it sits and then might have a mushy texture after baking later.

      If you want to get most of the dish ready in advance, I would stir together the meatballs and liquids in the dish and keep that in the fridge. Then you can just stir in the pasta and cover it right before baking.

      Hope that helps, and enjoy!????

  23. I want to make this for a friend who just had a baby, I was kind of wanting her to have the option of eating it that night or putting it in the freezer if they aren’t going to eat it that night. Should I cook it completely and then bring it over, or should I just prep it? Would it heat up ok if I baked it fully in the morning and brought it over and then had her put it in her fridge til they were ready to eat at night?…how should I instruct her to reheat it? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hey, Kristen! I know that I’ve had friends who have made this dish one night and then had good luck reheating it as leftovers after that. If you want to bake it in advance, I would suggest covering it with foil and baking it in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or until just heated through.

      Here’s the deal, though: I think that this type of dump-and-bake dish is best when it’s assembled just before baking. Since you’re using uncooked pasta, I think that the texture gets a little gummy if it sits around too long (in the fridge or even after baking as leftovers), so it’s just not my preference.

      This is what I would do for your friend:
      – Shop for all of the ingredients and put them in a nice reusable grocery bag. For instance, in the bag you can include the box of pasta, the jar of sauce, the frozen meatballs (measured out into the correct quantity), etc.
      – I would also put a nice new casserole dish (as a gift) or a disposable foil casserole dish in the bag.
      – Give her the instructions on how to stir everything together, tell her to cover it, and provide her with the baking instructions. Or just print out the recipe and include it in the bag!
      – Then she can stir everything together in the dish and enjoy a fresh, homemade dinner for her family whenever she needs something easy — and you don’t have to worry about the quality of the meal for reheating.

      I would also include a salad and a fresh loaf of bread or dinner rolls for her family to serve on the side. 🙂

  24. Hi Blair,
    I was wondering if this could be modified for the crockpot, or if it would be ok if I prepped it and put it in the fridge so it’s ready for my husband to just put it in the oven.
    Can’t wait to try it!

    1. Hi, Lisa! I think that it could probably cook in a Crock Pot too, but I just don’t know what the exact timing would be since I haven’t tried it myself.

      You can definitely prep it in advance — I just wouldn’t leave it sitting in the fridge for more than a few hours. The pasta will start to absorb the liquid as it sits, and I just think that the texture is a bit off once it does that. It’s not awful, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. 🙂

  25. 5 stars
    I am trying this for dinner. I have some picky eaters. So I like the fact the whole family can enjoy this. Everyone loves pasta and meatballs! Can’t wait.. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  26. I’m 9 months pregnant with my second child and making freezer meals for after the baby is born. I’m curious if anyone has tried this as a freezer meal; I’m thinking it would be best to cook and then freeze. Any suggestions?

    Either way, this is going on the menu plan for next week!

    1. Hi, Amanda! This recipe is a new mom’s best friend — so easy! I haven’t tried it as a freezer meal because I’ve always been worried that the raw pasta sitting in the liquid for too long will change the texture of the noodles (and maybe make them mushy)? I don’t know for sure…just a guess.

      If you want to have the meal available for your postpartum days, I would suggest buying all of the ingredients and just keeping them on hand (the meatballs can stay in your freezer and the pasta and marinara can stay in your pantry). You can even freeze cheese to keep it fresh if you’re worried that you won’t have any in your refrigerator when you need it. Then it’s just a matter of stirring everything together when you’re ready to prepare the recipe, which only takes about 5 minutes. Even a tired new mom can handle that, I promise. 🙂

      1. Freeze the dry ingredients and label the bag with the amount and type of liquids to add before cooking. Liquids could be frozen separate.

  27. How much time do you think it would take in the oven if I put already cooked pasta in? I work almost every ight until after 6. The kids are dying when j get home. If I made this ahead of time and had the kids just pop it in the oven, dinner could be done before I get home. I am just not sure they would be able to check noodle for doneness if I use dry.

    1. Hi, Heather! You can definitely use cooked pasta, and it should reheat at 350 degrees F in about 25 minutes (if you’re heating it right away) or in about 35 minutes if you’re cooking it directly from the refrigerator and it’s still cold. You will need to drastically alter the amount of liquid in the dish, though, because the cooked pasta won’t absorb the water like the raw pasta will. I would just use as much marinara as you like when stirring it all together, until it reaches the desired consistency. Cover to bake, and remove the foil at the end of baking to allow the cheese to brown.

  28. I’m making this for a friend who needs a little help. What would you recommend for reheating instruction?

    1. Hi, Katherine! Personally, I wouldn’t even cook it first. I would just stir everything together in the dish (prepping it for her), and then give it to her to bake fresh at her house.

      If you would prefer to bake it before delivering it, I would suggest reheating instructions as follows: bake, covered, at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, or until heated through. If she’s heating it straight from the refrigerator when it’s cold, it might take a bit longer. If she’s heating it from room temp, it should be warm within 20-25 minutes. Hope that helps! 🙂

  29. Wanted to make this but cant find fully cooked meatballs in my supermarket, can I cook them in the dish first then add the other ingredients or is them being frozen essential to the cooking times and final texture of the meal? Should I cook them first, then freeze for later maybe?

    1. Hi, Catherine! Yes, you can definitely use the homemade meatballs. The recipe actually specifies that the frozen meatballs need to be thawed before going into the casserole, so you don’t need frozen meatballs to prepare the dish. Your homemade version will probably taste amazing! Enjoy. 🙂

  30. Hi! Love the dish. I was wondering can I make ahead and put in fridge/freezer? If so, what temp do you recommend rehearing and for how long? Covered or uncovered?

    Sorry , I’m assuming your advice on these questions would be he best!



    1. Hi, Eliza! I’ve always been hesitant to assemble this dish in advance because I worry that the uncooked pasta might soak up too much liquid before it goes in the oven, resulting in a mushy or weird texture at the end. I’m not sure if this is the case since I haven’t tried it that way — just a guess.

      That said, I have had many readers tell me that they enjoy the leftovers reheated. If you bake the dish and then reheat it, I would suggest reheating it at 350 degrees F, covered with foil, for about 20-30 minutes (or until warmed through). Hope that helps!

  31. I loved the simplicity of this recipe. It’s super quick and it’s easy to have the ingredients on hand. I loved using Trader Joe’s for these ingredients. They have a 28oz can of marinara sauce which works perfectly AND if you don’t want to bother getting out a measuring cup, use the can! Anyway, I love that I can make sure to have these things on hand waiting for a busy night. Oh and I happened to have a bag of mozzarella but I usually don’t so I would buy a bag keep it in the freezer. I think it would defrost enough if you took it out when you start making the dinner. Oh and I would add a little salt before baking next time. Thanks for the easy recipe!

  32. 1 star
    I made this for dinner tonight and although it came out looking like the picture, it was bland and tasteless. Would not recommend. Sorry! 🙁

    1. She gave a basic recipe. Based on taste you could add: salt, pepper, basil, red pepper, etc. Her sauce may be more season than yours. All cooks/families have different tastes.

  33. 5 stars
    I made this tonight. I had to adjust baking time beacuse of the pasta i use. I swapped the water for beef/veg stock i had on hand. (i always stock on hand) i also mixed some cheese mozz and parm into the baking group. Total bake covered for was 45min and 10 min with cheese on top. I also chopped up my meatballs into quarters so it wpuld be more mixed with the dish (lots of mouths to feed over here)

  34. Can you put all ingredients in a ziplock bag, except pasta, freeze it. Then thaw it and put it in oven to prep ahead of time?

  35. This was yummy & so easy!!! I need more dinners like this, usually you always have to cook something before adding. I used veggie rotini& it was great. Thanks!

  36. Do you know if this could be done in an instant pot? I have made this several times and just love it but would love to try in the IP

    1. Hi, Janis! I’m still kind of a newbie with the Instant Pot, so I haven’t experimented with cooking pasta in it. I bet you could do it (I’ve seen other folks cook pasta in the IP), but I wouldn’t be able to give you any specific instructions for this particular recipe. Maybe I should add this to my recipe testing list! 🙂

  37. 5 stars
    This looks delicious. I am.making it now to take to a pot luck dinner at the American Legion. These guys love Italian pasta dinners. I try and find sometging different every week and this hits the make. I know they are just going to love it.

  38. I do a version of this, but don’t even cook the meat. Just place ground turkey or beef in with pasta & cover it with the sauce. It turns out perfect every time. I even set it on the time bake while at church & it’s ready when we get home!

  39. I can’t wait to try this. Sorry new cook here! I purchased pre made meatballs from the store that are raw and need to be cooked. Do I bake them in the oven first and then add them to this meal like in the recipe?

    1. Hi, Beth! Yes, you’ll want to use fully cooked meatballs in this recipe. If you’re starting with raw meatballs, just bake them in the oven according to the package instructions. Then proceed with the recipe as written. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

  40. Could you recommend how to adjust the recipe (if it would need any changes at all) if I wanted to add spinach or other vegetables, such as diced zucchini? I would think it would work if I just mixed the veggies in before baking, but I would appreciate any suggestions you may have! Also, I’m open to ideas of other vegetables you think would work with this meal, please.

    1. Hey, Rachel! I think you can definitely add just about any of your family’s favorite veggies. Zucchini is a great idea! I would just stir it in with the rest of the ingredients right before baking. Enjoy!

  41. This recipe looks great! I am trying it tonight and am so excited! I do have one question; Could I use veggie-based noodles and still cook for the same time, or does the recipe call for normal noodles?

    1. Hi, Devan! This recipe calls for regular noodles, so I haven’t tested it with veggie-based noodles. Are you referring to dry pasta noodles, or something like zucchini noodles? If you’re using zucchini noodles, then the recipe will not work because you need a dry pasta to absorb most of the liquid. If you’re using a more traditional dry pasta, it should work fine — so long as the cooking time for the dry pasta is about the same as the short pasta used in the recipe. Hope that helps!

    1. Hi, Elizabeth! Yes, I think it could, but I’ve never actually tried it myself, so I couldn’t give you any specific cooking times. Just be careful not to overcook the pasta in the slow cooker or it will become mushy.

  42. 5 stars
    I had a idea for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, work in the kitchen kinda night. I ran into your site by accident and so happy I did! My youngest just arrived from his duty station for the holiday and wifey isn’t home from work. I threw this together exactly as you have it. We really like this so much that it will definitely be a quick go to in the future. I personally loved it so much I signed up for your newsletter. Yes ma’am this old man is the cook in this house, gotta keep honey happy!!! Thank you for this fabulous easy recipe and looking forward to spending more time on your site. Happy Thanksgiving 2018 to you and your family!

    1. Hi, Michael! I’m so glad that you and your family enjoyed the dinner. Thank you so much for your kind words, and happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

  43. 5 stars
    Loved this. Have to say, anytime I do not have to boil pasta first, I’m in! Look forward to trying many more of your recipes, mainly for quick weeknight meals.

  44. 5 stars

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  45. 5 stars
    This was really yummy and easy! I didn’t have rotini so I used farfalle and it was still really good! I served with garlic Texas toast

  46. 5 stars
    This recipe is a definite keeper. I doubled the recipe for a pot luck and added a bag of Italian vegetables. Came out great.

  47. 5 stars
    I needed a dish to take to a friend who had a death in the family. As I had never made this before, tried it out first on my own family. Followed recipe exactly and it turned out great. My 12 year old asked if I could make it every week. Will be making it again tomorrow to take to my friend. Thanks for this easy but tasty recipe!

  48. Made this exactly as written and we both enjoyed it very much! So fast and easy to make–love that! I often find that the prep time given in recipes is less than what it takes me to prep, but not this one! In fact, it was prepped and ready in about five minutes–before my oven was even preheated! Makes a lot so plenty for leftovers which we love. Thanks for another great recipe Blair!

  49. I’m not the greatest cook and always question myself. I’m going to try this recipe for the first time. Are the noodles suppose to be completely submerged in the water/marinara or will this still cook appropriately because the tin foil will be covering it? I feel embarrassed asking.

    1. Hi, Elicia! It’s not a silly question at all! You want almost all of the noodles submerged, but it’s totally fine if some are sticking out. You can give it a stir during the cooking time to make sure that everything cooks evenly, if you like. Enjoy! 🙂

  50. 5 stars
    Love this! It has become my go-to meal to make when I didn’t have a plan and I need something easy that I know the kids will love. It is my son’s favorite meal!

  51. 5 stars
    I made this last night and hubby and I loved it. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.. It’s definitely going into rotation at our house.
    P. S.
    I look at most cooking times as an estimate. Even when baking, I know my oven occasionally has a temperature tantrum and I bought a thermometer that lives in the oven now. I also live at 6,000 ft elevation and that has its own issues. I guess my point is that a few minutes either way for an oven is just a normal thing. Just enjoy the cooking and don’t worry about it. Cooking shouldn’t be a worrisome chore. Go forth and enjoy it ????❤️

  52. Just made this tonight, it was great! Made it with all gluten free ingredients and added veggies to it, was a huge hit with family!

  53. 5 stars
    This was so good!! I followed the directions exactly and it turned out perfectly. Tasted great and I loved how easy it was – it’s a big win when there’s not a pile of dishes to clean up after!! Instead of stressing over dinner, it took care of itself in the oven and allowed me to be outside with the family playing on a beautiful night. Thanks again!

  54. 5 stars
    I just made this dish and it turned out perfect. Baked at 425 for 35 minutes covered. Removed the foil and put the chees on top and baked for 5 minutes. So delicious.

  55. 5 stars
    I just made this tonight. I actually had rotini pasta but I bought a box of “miniature spaghetti” from Safeway and have been trying to figure out a good recipe to use it in…this was it!!! I did take the advise I had seen in comments so I set the timer to 45 min initially which was perfect so I put the cheese on top and baked for another 10 min. It was a tiny bit mushy but certainly not enough to change anything for the next time. Thank you for an easy and awesome recipe!!! The best part was spending precious time (which is few and far between) with the family while dinner was doing itself!

  56. This dish looks amazing!! My son loves pasta and meatballs. I am wondering if this is something I can do in the crockpot? It has been so hot lately and having the oven on at 425 is not sounding amazing at all. I know the pasta would have to go in last minute to prevent mushiness. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi, Alicia! Yes — this should work in the Crock Pot; however, you’ll want to put the pasta in when it’s dry (don’t cook it first) so that it can absorb the liquid and cook in the pot. The key with any slow cooker pasta recipe is to make sure that you don’t over cook the pasta and make it mushy. It’s difficult to know how long the pasta will need, since every slow cooker runs at slightly different temperatures. I would suggest simmering the meatballs and liquid for a couple of hours on LOW. About an hour before you’re reading to eat, turn the pot to HIGH and add the dry pasta. I’m guessing it will take about an hour on high for the pasta to become tender, but you really just need to watch it. Again, I haven’t tested this myself, so it’s just a guess at this point. I hope that helps! 🙂

  57. Oh my goodness. 1106mg sodium for a serving. That is not what my family is eating no matter how delicious it is! Maybe if you made your own spagetti sauce it is possible. It does look really good though!

    1. Hi, Shelley! Frozen meatballs also include a lot of sodium, so if you’re trying watch the sodium intake, you could use homemade meatballs instead.

    2. You’re right, Shelley. I am on a sodium-restricted diet too, and 1,100+ mg of salt is nearly my entire day’s allowance. So I’ll try this recipe BUT with no-salt-added pasta sauce (yeah, it is out there — just gotta Google it) and instead of pre-made meatballs I’ll use (pick one) browned hamburger, shaved steak or chicken (both sold by the package in our local grocery — very low sodium), browned ground turkey, etc.

  58. Plan to make it tonight but only have larger (shell ) noodles. Would it work if I cook longer and would I need to use more water because of the size of the noodles?

    1. Hi! The cooking time will depend on the cooking time suggested on your box of larger shell noodles. Rotini (which I used here) has a suggested cooking time of 8-12 minutes. If your box of shells calls for a similar cooking time, then you should be able to bake the casserole for the same amount of time as the rotini. If your box of shells has a longer suggested cooking time than the rotini, then you’ll want to add time to your casserole. The amount of liquid that you use shouldn’t have to change, assuming that you’re still using 1 lb. of pasta. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

  59. 5 stars
    This is the first recipe I have ever successfully followed. It was a hit with my boyfriend, but his son didn’t care for it. That doesn’t mean I am taking away any stars and I’m head over heels in love with this since I can *actually* make it!!! I’m soooo proud of myself, too! I made it again tonight. I took his 10 year old son’s criticism seriously though and here are some things to consider: it IS a casserole so it’s pretty fool proof. His son thought the flavor was kinda bland. I realized a few things (I’m NO cook so this isn’t to tear this apart. It’s to help a beginning home cook like myself)….
    I needed to change the actual pasta sauce I chose —original one had no flavor. I needed to add Italian seasoning and garlic. I also substituted one cup of the water for more sauce (buying 2 jars)… then I added a bit more sauce once it was all stirred up. The liquid ratio worked to cook the noodles both times but this time the flavor is more robust.
    I used mozzarella last time and it was seriously way too bland.
    Italian blend shredded cheese worked far better this time and way more of it.
    One final note, I used breadcrumbs that I had tossed with olive oil, Italian seasoning, garlic and Parmesan shaky cheese and topped with that for last 5 minutes of baking.

    I feel like I can actually cook now and I feel way more comfortable in the kitchen. Thank you for this awesome kick start recipe!!!!!

    1. This totally warms my heart, Megan! You can totally cook! I have so many recipes on this site that are equally simple (many are called “dump-and-bake…”), so hopefully you can find even more success in the meals ahead. Thanks for your note, and I bet those breadcrumbs on top were delicious!

  60. 5 stars
    i made the dump and bake meatball casserole tonight. It was delicious. I did treak it. I fried hamburger rather than the meatballs and added a can of sliced black olives.

  61. 5 stars
    This was absolutely excellent! A hit with the family and will definitely be adding to our favorites! Thank you so much!

  62. 5 stars
    Looks delicious! How could I make this ahead and take to a friend to feed her family after her upcoming surgery? Would I bake it and then freeze it or would I assemble and have her family bake it? What are your suggestions for altered bake times then? She has 3 strapping farm boys and a husband to feed.

    1. Hi, Deb! I think this is best when prepared and then baked within a few hours. The texture of the pasta is a bit gummy if you freeze it after baking, so that’s not my preference.

      I would just assemble it as instructed right before taking it to your friend, and then give her the baking instructions. If she’s not planning to enjoy the meal that evening, I would just prepare the ingredients for her in a basket and let her stir everything together when she’s ready to make it. Hope that helps!

  63. 5 stars
    A co worker shared this recipe with me and I’m so glad she did. I used garden blend rotini noodles (only because I accidentally bought them and was too lazy to go to the store to get a regular rotini box). Still good but better with regular rotini. I used a 9×13 glass baking pan at 425° for 40 minutes. My meatballs were only halfway thawed and everything turned out great! I put it back in for 7 mins to melt the mozzarella cheese. I only had 1-2 crunchy noodles in the whole dish which was fine by me since I didn’t have to cook the noodles first! My husband really liked it so I will be making this again. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to look at your other recipes while I’m here.

    1. Thanks, April! I appreciate you taking the time to leave a note, and I’m so glad that you’ve found my site. I hope that you find more easy recipes to try!

  64. 5 stars
    My husband and I made this tonight, and it was extremely easy yet very tasty! The instructions worked great as-is with no modifications. Love the whole dump-and-bake concept (tasty meals with as little work as possible? yes, please!), so we’ll definitely be trying more of your recipes. 🙂

    1. So glad that you both enjoyed it, Sarah! I have so many other dump and bake recipes on the blog, so hopefully you’ll find a few more new options. 🙂

  65. Is the picture misleading, because step 2 of the recipe reads: “In a large baking dish (about 9 x 13), stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water, and meatballs. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes.”, but plainly the picture shows a deep, not oblong baking dish,

    1. Hi, Adele! I’ve used a number of different baking dishes for this recipe, and as long as you’re using one that’s about the same capacity as a 9 x 13 dish, you should be fine. Most folks have 9 x 13 in their kitchen, so that’s why the recipe uses that measurement. If you have a different shape 3-4 quart dish (as shown), that will be fine too. 🙂

      1. Should the meatballs need to be frozen when you put the dish in the oven?

        I have not tried the recipe yet so I could not give a rating.

        1. I am sorry for the question I asked above. I came to your site to get the derby pie recipe (yum) and got busy looking at all of the other recipes. So I thought I had read through the ingredient list for the meatball casserole but after I sent that question I looked at the ingredient list again and saw that the meatballs need to be defrosted! Anyway, I can’t wait to make this recipe and try many others.

  66. 5 stars
    This was absolutely excellent! A hit with the family and will definitely be adding to our favorites! Thank you so much!

  67. I was wondering if you can substitute regular sized meatballs for the mini meatballs? Would this work with penne pasta? Thank you.

    1. Hi, Bea! Yes and yes! 🙂 You can definitely use the larger meatballs, and you can also use penne pasta. Just keep an eye on the penne — it should have a similar baking time to the rotini, but it may need a few minutes more or less. Enjoy!

  68. 5 stars
    I love not having to precook the pasta, making this a great “ lazy day” dish. For a heartier flavor I add a small can diced Italian style tomatoes, I drain the juice into large measuring cup then add water to equal the 3 cups. I had to add about 5 minutes or so to each phase of the cooking times. but I think this varies depending on size and shape of the baking dish. Could not find cocktail sized meatballs but the regular size works just fine. Thank you so much for this recipe, definitely a keeper!

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a note with the details of your version, Frances! I’m glad to know that you enjoy the recipe. 🙂

  69. 1 star
    I had my doubts about this recipe based on the amount of pasta sauce vs the amount of water. But based on all the great reviews, I decided to give it a try. I added I talian seasonung and, after tasting the pasta to be sure it was al dente, I added a can of fire roasted tomatoes to try to give it some taste. This is the most tasteless recipe I have ever tried. Bland doesn’t begin to describe it. Maybe adding 2 jars of pasta sauce would give it some flavor? Who knows. I won’t be making this again. Ever!

    1. I agree, Jane. I was also Leary about the sauce/water ratio. But I followed the recipe exactly. When it came out of the oven, some noodles were done and some were gummy and tasteless. I ended up opening another jar of pasta sauce to serve over the dish. After reading all these great reviews, I wonder what I did wrong?

  70. 5 stars
    Would give it a 10 if it were an option! I have actually made it twice now! It’s perfect! Not dried out or blah! I care for elderly people in their own homes and cook daily for them, this was a hit! And believe me when I say that is a gold star that isn’t easily achieved! This second time I added some pepperoni with the meatballs, it was excellent as well!
    Thank you so much for sharing! And I plan to try your other dump bake recipes as well!!
    Take care! Stay safe and PLEASE don’t stop sharing!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Tisha! It makes me really happy to know that this recipe helps you get food on the table for so many others. Thanks for your kind note. 🙂

    1. Hi, Laura! Sure — you can use either of those, you just might need to tweak the total baking time a little bit. The rotini has a suggested baking time (on the box) of 7-8 minutes. If your pasta shapes need longer (or shorter), just adjust the time in the oven accordingly. For instance, if your farfalle requires 11-12 minutes according to the box, then you might need to leave the casserole in the oven for longer than 40-45 minutes. I don’t know an exact time since I haven’t tested it, but I would try a total of 45 minutes first, check to see if the pasta is tender, and then put it back in the oven if it still seems firm. Hope that helps!

  71. 5 stars
    This meatball casserole looks so good, and I can’t wait to give it a go. I have honestly never bought store-bought frozen meatballs. If it’s possible, can you share any brands that are Blair approved? Thanks so much.

    1. Hi, Gina! If you shop at Trader Joe’s (I don’t usually) they have some great frozen Italian meatballs. Whole Foods also has a great brand called Nature’s Rancher. Otherwise, I tend to buy what I can get at my small, rural little grocery store (where the options are limited) — either Rosina brand or Cooked Perfect brand. Enjoy!

  72. 5 stars
    This recepi is most defenately a keeper, was so easy and so tasty too, used a jar of marinara meatball sauce, I did everything the way you did it apart from when I got the mozzarella out I found out it was out of date so I had to use normal shredded cheddar and it was lovely (lots of cheese) the people who are saying it´s bland must be using some ghetto sauce with no flavour, my pasta cooked properly and evenly and I sent pictures of this last night to my daughter and a friend, they are both lazy cooks and they now both want this recepi and I hope you don´t mind me sharing it with them, thank you for posting this, can see me making this a lot when I´m tired and havn´t got a lot of time to mess around in the kitchen, take care 🙂 ps. my partner had 3 bowl fulls of this last night.

    1. Thank you so much for your note, Rakel! I’m so glad for you to share the recipe with your daughter and a friend. Sometimes we all need a lazy option that doesn’t require much effort or too many ingredients! 🙂

    1. Hi, Jeanie! I’ve never actually tried freezing this casserole before baking it. I think it would probably work fine, though. You’ll need to either thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before baking, or bake for almost twice as long if you’re putting it into the oven still frozen. As the pasta sits in the liquid before baking, it will absorb some of the liquid and soften a bit…so it might have a slightly different texture. Again, it should work okay — it just might not be quite the same. 🙂

          1. Hi, Vera! I don’t. I bet it would work fine in the slow cooker, but you just have to be careful with the pasta. I find that noodles are tricky in the Crock Pot because they can go from hard and undercooked to mushy and overdone quite quickly. Until you get the exact cooking time down for your specific slow cooker and your specific shape of pasta, it can be a guessing game where you just have to keep a close eye on the dish and turn it off as soon as the pasta is finished.

  73. 5 stars
    I just want to thank you for this recipe. I have had a few surgeries & complications from surgeries the past few months, & I have been leaning on this meal at least once a week while I am not up to much physically. I have even taught my seven year old to make it (I put it in the oven for her), & she is so proud she can make a real meal without help. It has been a lifesaver!

    1. That’s amazing! I’m so glad to know that it’s been helpful and easy to prepare with your family. Hopefully you can try some of my other dump-and-bake dinners on the blog to get you through the rough days when it’s not easy to spend a lot of time cooking. Hope you’re feeling better soon!

  74. 5 stars
    Easy Peasy and tasty too! I added some seasonings that my family likes and used a good flavorful sauce. Followed the recipe as stated otherwise. The family really liked it. Came together quick and effortless. Will definitely go into the dinner rotation. Thanks for sharing!

  75. 5 stars
    This is a very easy and good recipe! However the next time I make it I will use the next size bigger in the marinara sauce and add fresh mushrooms. Definitely a keeper!

      1. 5 stars
        Can I use regular pasta sauce for this? I’m also wondering if there are any veggies or other fillers you would suggest adding to this dish. Thank you for the recipe it’s perfect for a busy week!

        1. Hi, Tanya! Yes, any tomato-based pasta sauce that you like will work fine. As far as the veggies go, I think you could really add almost anything that your family enjoys. If it’s something like broccoli or carrots that requires a longer cooking time, you might want to parboil or quickly steam the veggies before adding them to the casserole so that they’re soft by the end of the baking time. If you want to use a softer vegetable like frozen peas or frozen corn, I’d wait to stir that into the dish towards the end because they don’t need more than a couple of minutes in the hot casserole to soften up and warm through. Hope that helps, and enjoy!

  76. 5 stars
    I’m so glad I came across your recipe! It was easy & effortless to make, and I used casserole elbows and shredded taco cheese which came out DELICIOUSLY! Thanks for sharing!

  77. Hi, besides defrosting the meatballs for almost a whole day, do you think you could partially cook them to prepare them for the casserole? Thanks for you help,

      1. 5 stars
        Amazing!!!! Used my own homemade spaghetti sauce, with onions and mushrooms in it. Used Italian meatballs “Walmart brand” cooked for an extra 20 minutes. Amazing! Kids and husband loved it.

  78. 5 stars
    This is great! I loved the comment that said get your grand daughter to put it all together. My little helper will really enjoy preparing this recipe. I’ll make enough for her to take home for mom and dad. thanks so much for the inspiration…..I’m going to subscribe. LIKE! Thanks bay.

  79. 5 stars
    I just made this, so fast and simple, I cooked my for 45 minutes and 5 extra for cheese. It was so good and filling. The 3 cups of water was perfect
    Thank so much for this great recipe

        1. Hi, Kristy! I think it would work in the slow cooker, but I don’t know the exact timing because I haven’t tested it myself. The tricky part about the slow cooker is making sure that the pasta cooks through until it’s tender, and then you turn it off right away. If you let the pasta cook for too long in the Crock Pot, it will get overdone, mushy, and gummy — which is obviously not ideal. As long as you’re home to keep a close eye on the pasta, the slow cooker would probably be okay.

  80. Is this something that I can put in a casserole dish and let it sit in the fridge all day and then my husband can throw in the over when he gets home? If so… do I add the water and let it sit all day? I’m trying to figure out more meals for him to make while I’m working.

    1. Hi, Elyssa! I haven’t prepped the dish that way, but I know other folks have done so. It should work fine! The pasta will soften a little as it sits in the liquid, so you may need to reduce the overall cooking time by a few minutes. You just don’t want to end up with mushy, overdone pasta at the end. Remind your husband to check it towards the end and pull the dish out of the oven as soon as the noodles are tender. 🙂

  81. Excited to try this subbing the meatballs for veggie meatballs! Going to add fresh mushrooms too per another commenters suggestion.

  82. 5 stars
    YUM! I work full time so time is tight at dinnertime and I’m always looking for a quick easy recipe, and this one definetly fit the bill. I couldn’t find mini meatballs but regular size worked just fine, I just didn’t add as many. 3 cups of water was the perfect amount. I used Rao’s marinara sauce and added a bit of Italian Seasoning and garlic before stirring and baking. Since I used a ceramic dish, the bake time was about 43-45 minutes, then I combined parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on top and baked uncovered another 10 minutes. Topped it off with basil. I think next time I might use Italian Cheeses instead of Mozzarella to give it more of a kick. We had leftovers the next day and all it needed was a bit more sauce tossed in and it was just as good. Doesn’t get any easier than this recipe, low prep time and quick bake time. definetly a keeper. Thanks for sharing!

  83. 5 stars
    We loved this recipe! I used regular size meatballs and penne pasta. Toward the end of cooking time I stirred the casserole and felt it needed a second jade of sauce. I cooked it a few more minutes before adding the mozzarella.

  84. Hello Blair. I was wondering if I could use some tomato paste with this? Thanks so much for the great recipe!

    1. Hi, Juls! Yes, ma’am! You can definitely stir in some tomato paste (maybe start with 1-2 T) for a sauce with a more rich tomato flavor. 🙂

  85. Just made this, it was so good! Added a lot of extra seasonings (crushed garlic, Italian seasoning, onion powder & a bit of red pepper flakes) Glad I did otherwise i think it would have a bit bland for my test. Will definitely be making this again!

  86. 4 stars
    This recipe is very easy to make, which I like. The flavor is pretty good.The only change I did was add in some Italian Seasoning. Will probably make again since it is quick to assemble.

  87. I’m so burned out with cooking dinner on sports/activity nights and always looking for easy dinner ideas. I just discovered all of your Dump and Bake recipes. I’m so excited! Trying this one tonight!

  88. 5 stars
    Homemade meatballs cooked in homemade sauce one night, and then followed the rest of the recipe the next night, made for a wonderful meal!!

  89. Chickpea Noodles results in a pile of mush. Haha. I’m guessing cooking time should have been adjusted but I just went for it.

  90. 5 stars
    Made this for my daughter and I. As a single father, I love these easier recipes and we absolutely loved it. Thank you.

  91. I used a 30 oz. jar of Rao’s Marinara sauce (my favorite). I had no mozzarella so i used a cup of Kraft grated parmesan and a cup of Jarlsberg cheese that I shredded on my grater. Everything else was as you suggest iin the recipe. The dish came out perfect. It was excellent! I am definitely going to make this again.

  92. 5 stars
    Okay, I cook; I don’t dump. But, this evening, I just didn’t want to face all the pots I’d have to wash using my usual method of making something akin to this. So, I tried your recipe, with trepidation. OMG!!! It was great! Thanks so much for expanding my horizons!

  93. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner this evening, and was delightfully surprised with the recipe and the results. Can’t get any easier than this recipe for new cooks or old ones. Will definitely make this for some potlucks coming up in the next two months and take the recipe with me to share.
    Thank you Blair for your recipes that you share with your followers.

  94. 5 stars
    If you use the precooked smaller meatballs, there is NO reason to thaw them. They heat right up. Also, one can use any sauce. I used a 27 oz. jar of creamy butternut squash sauce (Target sells it under their private label brand)with chicken meatballs and the pasta and it was more than delicious! Complementary herbs for the sauce include parsley, nutmeg/cinnamon, sage and oregano which add delicious flavoring. In place of 3 total cups of water, I replaced 1/2+ cup of that with white wine.
    This version turned into something richer and elevated!

  95. 5 stars
    Great and very easy recipe! We love it. I added Parmesan and Romano cheese with the mozzarella on top plus extra Italian seasoning in the casserole.

  96. 3 stars
    Fair. It’s not quite as good as lasagna but is a good quick approximation. If you’re use to Pasta Roni or hamburger helper etc. It’s about the same bracket. But you could easily dress it up with sauteeing onions etc. It was super fast to put together. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Job. You’re right — it’s definitely meant to be an easy, shortcut meal for busy nights. It can’t compete with a pan of made-from-scratch lasagna, but it’s definitely a lot quicker! 🙂 Feel free to “dress it up” as much as you like — take the base inspiration and get creative. I’d love to hear if you try it again with other ingredients!

    1. We recommend checking the recipe after 30 minutes if you cut it in half, and keeping a close eye on it as it bakes!

  97. 5 stars
    Sooooooo yummy & easy! Since we’re a family of three, we halved the recipe and baked it in an 8×8 dish. It was the perfect amount for us.

  98. I have made this recipe several times with several different types of pasta. Pasta never cooks properly. Last time I made it had to bake it for almost an hour for the noddles to even be soft enough to eat and then it was very starchy

    1. You should be able to! We don’t recommend altering the cook time as it’s necessary for the rice to cook. If you’re worried about the meatballs drying out, you may want to heat them up separately and stir them in after. Or, add them the last few minutes of baking just to warm. Hope that helps!

  99. 5 stars
    I LOVE this recipe! I make it on nights that my mom is burnt out with cooking and it’s super duper easy. I do tend to add Italian seasoning to it just to give it some extra oomph, but it’s really tasty.

  100. 5 stars
    Simple and delicious! I used plant-based meatballs and cheese since the hubs and I are vegetarian and vegan and it turned out perfectly. I love dump and bake recipes. Saves so much time and I don’t have to stand at the stove. This is the second time I’ve made this and it’s been a hit both times.