One Pan Meatball Casserole is one of those dump it and forget it family favorites that everyone loves.  It makes a great freezer meal and I’ve adapted it for the slow cooker and instant pot. 

One pan dishes are the kind of recipes that motivate me to make dinner.  I love the thought of few dishes and easy prep!  Some of my favorite one pan meals include Easy Beef Stroganoff, Cottage Pie, and One Pan Jambalaya.

A white casserole dish with ziti pasta, meatballs and cheese lifted out with a spoon.

This is one of those magical dinners where uncooked noodles, sauce, and meatballs are all added to a casserole dish and baked together in the same pan! It doesn’t get much easier then that, and it’s the type of warm and comforting meal that everyone in your family will love!

Ingredients you’ll Need:

  1. Uncooked ziti pasta: or penne noodles
  2. Marinara sauce: homemade or store-bought
  3. Milk: makes it creamy, but additional water or broth can be substituted.
  4. Water
  5. Spices: garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and salt
  6. Cooked meatballs: I like to use my homemade chicken meatballs.
  7. Shredded mozzarella cheese
  8. Optional toppings: parmesan cheese and fresh chopped herbs (such as basil, oregano, and parsley for garnish)

Uncooked ziti noodles, marinara sauce, meatballs, milk, spices and shredded cheese on a marble board.

How to Make Meatball Casserole:

  • Mix. In a large baking dish stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water, milk, spices and meatballs.
  • Bake. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 40 minutes.

Side by side photos of a casserole dish with uncooked pasta, sauce and spices, then water and meatballs added.

  • Stir and check.  Check the pasta—we want it to be al dente (firm, but almost perfectly cooked). If it’s still too hard, cover the dish and return to the oven for a few minutes.
  • Add cheese.  Sprinkle mozzarella over the top and bake uncovered at 425 degrees F. for 5-10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Serve. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving, to allow the sauce to thicken up.

Cooked meatballs pasta casserole with cheese sprinkled on top and then baked.Want to make a smaller batch? Cut the recipe in half and bake in an 8’’ or similar size dish.

Can I use frozen meatballs? I suggest thawing the meatballs first, so that everything bakes in as quick of time as possible. If you bake the dish with frozen meatballs it will take longer to bake.

A white plate with cheesy pasta, red sauce, meatballs and a fork.Slow Cooker: Prepare as directed, but leave out the milk and add an additional 24 oz jar of marinara sauce. Be sure the ziti noodles are covered with sauce. Cook on HIGH for 2 – 2 ½ hours, or LOW for 3 ⅓ -4 hours or until pasta is tender. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top during the last few minutes of cooking and return the lid to allow the cheese to melt. Optional: place under broiler for a few minutes to toast the cheesy top.

Instant Pot: Here is my very similar Instant Pot version. https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/instant-pot-penne-pasta-with-meatballs/

Make Ahead Instructions: This meatball casserole can be assembled completely the night before, but I wouldn’t do it any sooner than that or the noodles may have a mushy texture after baking.

Freezing Instructions: Prepare the meatball casserole up until baking. Cover with a double layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before baking, or to bake from froze, baked covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, and uncovered for 15-20 minutes longer.

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Recipe

A white casserole dish with ziti pasta, meatballs and cheese lifted out with a spoon.
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 50 minutes
Total 1 hour
Save Recipe

Ingredients
 
 

  • 16 oz. package uncooked ziti pasta
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Meatballs , fully cooked, thawed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella (or Italian blend cheese)
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped herbs (such as basil , oregano, and parsley for garnish)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • In a 9x13 inch baking dish stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water, milk, spices and meatballs.
  • Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Uncover; stir. Check the pasta for doneness. We want it to be al dente (firm, but almost perfectly cooked). If it’s still too hard, cover the dish and return to the oven for a few minutes.
  • Sprinkle mozzarella over the top and bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  • Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving, to allow the sauce to thicken up.

Notes

Want to make a smaller batch? Cut the recipe in half and bake in an 8’’ or similar size dish.
Make Ahead: This recipe can be assembled completely the night before, but I wouldn’t do it any sooner than that or the noodles may have a mushy texture after baking.
Freezing Instructions: Prepare the recipe up until baking. Cover with a double layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before baking, or to bake from froze, baked covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes, and uncovered for 15-20 minutes longer.
Slow Cooker: Prepare as directed, but leave out the milk and add an additional 24 oz jar of marinara sauce. Be sure the ziti noodles are covered with sauce. Cook on HIGH for 2 - 2 ½ hours, or LOW for 3 ⅓ -4 hours or until pasta is tender. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top during the last few minutes of cooking and return the lid to allow the cheese to melt. Optional-place under broiler for a few minutes to toast the cheesy top.
Instant Pot: Here is my very similar recipe for Instant Pot Penne Pasta with Meatballs.

Nutrition

Calories: 335kcalCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 16gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 25mgSodium: 932mgPotassium: 469mgFiber: 3gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 607IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 205mgIron: 2mg

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. I placed ziti in the bottom of a deep 9×13 pan and boiled the 2 cups of water and poured it over, just to be sure the pasta would be tender.

  2. 5 stars
    Very rare I write reviews but this was perfect. I just switched out marinara for vodka sauce and whole wheat penne. I think the milk and additional spices makes all the difference. Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    This was terrific! I’m a disabled mom & wife so finding a recipe that don’t involve a lot of prep work makes dinnertime & cleanup so much easier for me. I used elbow macaroni & baked for the suggested 40 minutes and the noodles were perfect. I also added a can of diced Italian tomatoes & a frozen pepper blend for extra veggies. It’s such a flexible recipe and I’ll definitely make it again!

  4. I have made this several times and tastes excellent! So easy to make and easy ingredients to have on hand when needing to make an easy dinner. Have made for relatives when visiting for a meal on nights we do not want to eat out too. I usually pair with garlic bread and sometimes salad for a great family meal!

  5. I tried this tonight with mixed pasta baked in my cast iron dutch oven. It was wonderful! Also I prepared home made garlic toast from whole wheat sourdough bread I bake this morning

  6. 5 stars
    The meatball casserole was easy to put together. Your instructions were simple as well. Even my picky 5 yr old ate it. Thank you

  7. 4 stars
    Made it just now, and smells good.
    Used ikea meatballs in it, in Holland we don’t have that much frozen meatballs so Italian meatballs is a bit hard to get.

    Consistency of the pasta seems to be perfect al dente. It is now in the oven with the cheese melt.

    Used a jar of Lidl pasta saus and the the seasoning mentioned. Instead of ziti pasta I used fusilli pasta, which seems to work as well..

    It smells good, but o think this is a great easy meal to make if you have a lazy Sunday like I have today.

    Next time I’ll make my own meatballs and marinara sauce, it would probably have a much better flavour than the generic ‘supermarket bought meatballs and pasta sauce’ taste..

    Will make this again

  8. I’ve made this twice. I made it using thawed frozen meatballs, which I never buy. It really was very good. I made it a second time using my own meatballs and sauce. Delicious! My suggestion would be to add the amount of meatballs you use. I just winged it really, but would like a ball park, I don’t know if one person added twice the amount you might use, if that would create a drier dish or not. Thanks for the great meal! It will be a staple for us.

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