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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.

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

4.83 from 74 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
  

  • 1 (16 ounce) package uncooked rotini pasta
  • 1 (24 or 25 ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 (14 ounce) package fully-cooked miniature (cocktail-size) meatballs (if using frozen meatballs, make sure that they are completely thawed before using)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped herbs (such as basil, oregano, and parsley for garnish)

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

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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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!!

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