Meatball pasta bake
Rich chilli, garlic and tomato meatballs baked with penne, mozzarella and parmesan for a satisfyingly delicious pasta bake!
Garlicky meatball pasta bake
Meatballs make such a satisfying meal, and I love how this recipe is so simple, but still packed full of flavour and makes a popular family meal.
I’m all for time-saving in the kitchen, and I think that a really successful way to make a super, flavoursome meatball sauce is to just blend all my sauce ingredients together raw, and then simmer them together! Not only does this save on chopping time, but the garlic blended into the tomato like this adds such deep flavour.
I have a food processor that does all the work for me, but if you don’t have one you can always use a hand blender, which will work fine to blend this sauce together.
There are only has 3 ingredients in the sauce (and if I’m doing it for the kids I leave the chilli out), but it tastes amazing. I think one of the reasons for this is that you whizz the garlic raw into the tomatoes rather than pre-frying it, so that flavour just spreads sweetly throughout all of the sauce.
The meatballs in this recipe are as basic as they get (ie just meat- no added breadcrumbs or seasoning), as the sauce has so much flavour that you really don’t need to mess around making fancy meatballs. If you prefer to jazz up your meatballs a bit you can always add some dried herbs and salt and pepper.
You can use any type of mince, pork, beef (or a mix), or turkey, just be sure to select the 5% fat or less version to keep this nice and lean.
This recipe is one of the ten most popular recipes on the blog, so it is now also in my first cookbook, The Slimming Foodie (p.92). So if you love recipes like this, then you can find 99 more in the cookbook, which is available at many different retailers, listed here. If you are looking for a vegetarian alternative, there is an awesome vegetarian chickpea meatball recipe in my cookbook The Slimming Foodie:
You can use any pasta shape that you like for this- I prefer penne or rigatoni but other shapes will work perfectly too!
This meatball pasta bake is syn free on Slimming World and will feed 6 people.
Looking for more oven-baked recipes? Why not try:
Can i prepare meatball pasta bake in advance?
Absolutely! This is a great dish to prepare in advance for a family dinner or dinner party. Just follow the recipe until you scatter the cheese over the top, and then cover and set aside until you are ready to bake it. If you are leaving it overnight then pop it into the fridge. If you are cooking this directly from the fridge, just add 5-10 minutes to the baking time.
How can i adapt this so my kids will eat it?
This is a meal that I often make for the whole family, as the kids love the simple, chunk-free flavoursome sauce. If I am making this for the kids then I don’t add chilli into the sauce, just simply tomatoes, garlic and seasoning. If I want some spice in my poriton I just scatter over some freshly chopped chilli when I serve it.
Turkey mince can work really well in this too, one of my daughters prefers the texture of turkey meatballs to beef ones.
Seeing as you are using the food processor for the sauce, this is also a really great opportunity to sneak in some extra vegetables for fussy eaters! You could blend in a carrot (raw is fine), a handful of spinach or kale, or even some roasted red peppers (from a jar).
How does this work on Slimming World?
This makes a brilliant Slimming World friendly meal. The meal is syn free with 1 healthy extra A per person (the mozzarella and parmesan).
What can I serve alongside this?
I usually serve this up with a simple rocket salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar. but it also goes well with crunchy sliced sweet peppers, grated carrot, or steamed green beans and asparagus.
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Meatball pasta bake
- 500 g 5% fat beef mince
- low calorie cooking spray or spray oil
- 2 tins (400g each) chopped tomatoes
- 5 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 whole green chilli stalk removed (leave seeds in if you like extra hot, I do)
- 300 g penne pasta
- 150 g mozzarella
- 30 g Parmesan cheese grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- basil and red chilli to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Make up the meatballs by simply rolling the mince into walnut -sized balls. Fry them over a high heat in a non-stick frying pan (using either low calorie cooking spray or spray oil) for 5 minutes, turning them often to brown on all sides.
- To make the sauce, use a hand-blender or a food processor to whizz up the tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Blend until completely smooth, then season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer the sauce to a saucepan, bring up to a simmer and then add the cooked meatballs
- Simmer the sauce and meatballs gently for 30 minutes
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta for 12 minutes, drain, then rinse with cold water to prevent it getting sticky.
- Once the sauce has cooked for 30 minutes, stir the pasta through and spoon it all into an ovenproof dish.
- Tear up the mozzarella and distribute it evenly over the top, then sprinkle over the Parmesan. Grind some more black pepper on top.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown on top. Serve up with torn basil leaves torn on top, and chopped red chilli (if using).