Meatball pasta bake

Rich chilli, garlic and tomato meatballs baked with penne, mozzarella and parmesan for a satisfyingly delicious pasta bake!

Ask any of my old flatmates the dishes that they most remember me for, and I think they would probably say ‘meatballs’! I’ve always loved cooking them (and eating them!). Meatballs and spaghetti was the first meal I ever made for my now husband (although that was a total disaster, I added a whole scotch bonnet chilli and it was HOTTER THAN THE SUN!) , he was so polite and sat and ate it all, the sweat pouring down his face!

My old ‘classic’ meatball recipe had an incredibly rich sauce, olive oil, cocoa powder, lots of tomato puree, sugar! I’ve pared it back these days as meatballs are still completely delicious even with an angelically healthy sauce. You probably know by now that I’m all for time-saving in the kitchen, and nowadays I always just blend all my sauce ingredients together raw, and then simmer them to save on chopping! 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.

This only has 3 ingredients in the sauce (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.

I have kept the meatballs here 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!

You can use any type of mince, pork, beef (or a mix), or turkey. Equally I keep meaning to try this with veggie balls make from either courgette or aubergine- watch this space!

I always use penne or rigatoni for this meatball pasta bake, I just think they work best (ie: looks best!), but really you can use any pasta you have!

Love meatball recipes? I have more! check out

Harissa and herb Moroccan meatballs

Turkey meatballs with Creole sauce

Pizza topped giant meatballs

Pork and quinoa meatballsEasy chilli garlic meatball pasta bake



My Recipe

Serves: 4
Syns: none
Healthy Extra: 1 HEA- cheese


  • 500g 5% fat beef mince
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole green chilli, stalk removed (leave seeds in if you like extra hot, I do)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 300g penne pasta
  • 150g mozzarella
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • basil and red chilli to garnish
  • Cooking spray or spray oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Make up the meatballs by simply rolling the mince into walnut -sized balls. Fry them in a non-stick frying pan (using either low calorie cooking spray or spray oil)on a high heat for 5 minutes.
  2. To make the sauce, use a hand-blender or a food processor to whizz up the tomatoes, garlic and chilli. Blend until completely smooth and then season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer the sauce to a saucepan, bring up to a simmer and then add the meatballs (once you have fried them for 5 minutes)
  4. Simmer the sauce and meatballs gently for 30 minutes
  5. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta for 12 minutes, drain, and then rinse through with cold water to prevent it getting sticky.
  6. Once the sauce has cooked for 30 minutes, stir the pasta through and spoon it all into an oven proof dish.
  7. Tear up the mozzarella and space evenly over the top, and sprinkle over the parmesan. Add some more black pepper on top.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown on top. Serve up with basil torn on top, and chopped red chilli sprinkled over.

Additional Info

Want a nice vegetable side dish with this? I would serve up with courgette fried until slightly golden, rocket, and roasted peppers.

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