Jump to RecipeJump to VideoLeave a ReviewPin Recipe

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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:

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.

Storage

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 78 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!

Ingredients
  

Instructions

  • 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).

Video

Notes

  • 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!

Nutrition

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
blair

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

Square overhead shot of hands serving a chicken pot pie recipe with biscuits
Overhead image of a bowl of chili mac on a dinner table with cornbread
Hands serving a platter of sheet pan sausage and potatoes

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 5 stars
    This was absolutely excellent! A hit with the family and will definitely be adding to our favorites! Thank you so much!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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. 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. 5 stars
    This was absolutely excellent! A hit with the family and will definitely be adding to our favorites! Thank you so much!

  8. 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!

  9. 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. 🙂

  10. 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?

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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! 🙂