Are you on the hunt for a comforting and satisfying meal that's a breeze to make and incredibly tasty? Well, you're in luck because this meatball casserole has got you covered! It's loaded with the hearty goodness of marinara sauce, tender meatballs, and melty mozzarella cheese. It's a real crowd-pleaser!
Whether you're a novice cook or a seasoned pro, this easy dump and bake meatball casserole recipe is a winner.
If you enjoy Italian-inspired comfort food, you'll definitely want to check out our chicken Parmesan casserole for a tasty twist!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
❤️ Quick and Easy. With minimal prep work and just a few simple steps, you can have a satisfying meal on the table in no time.
❤️ Family Favorite. The combination of pasta, meatballs, and cheese is universally loved, making this casserole a hit with both kids and adults.
❤️ Customizable. You can personalize this recipe with your favorite herbs, spices, or vegetables for added flavor.
❤️ One-Pot Wonder. This dish requires only a single baking dish, making cleanup a breeze.
❤️ Perfect for Leftovers. Enjoy the leftovers the next day—they often taste even better as the flavors intensify.
Table of Contents
- Rotini pasta. You can use any pasta shape you prefer, but rotini's spiral design holds the sauce and cheese exceptionally well.
- Marinara sauce. Opt for a high-quality store-bought sauce or make your own if you have the time. Look for options with low sodium if you're watching your salt intake.
- Frozen meatballs. Feel free to use homemade meatballs if you have them, but frozen meatballs work perfectly and save time.
- Mozzarella cheese. Shredded mozzarella melts beautifully, but you can experiment with other cheese varieties like provolone or a blend for added flavor. I recommend buying a block of mozzarella and shredding it yourself. Pre-shredded mozzarella contains additives that prevent it from sticking together but it also hinders its ability to melt smoothly.
See recipe card for quantities.
Step 1. Preheat oven to 425 F (218 C).
- Pasta. You can use different pasta shapes like penne, rigatoni, or even spaghetti if you prefer.
- Sauce. While marinara sauce is traditional, you can try other pasta sauces like alfredo, pesto, or a vodka sauce for a different flavor.
- Meatballs. Instead of frozen meatballs, you can make your own homemade meatballs using ground beef, turkey, or a meatless alternative like plant-based meatballs.
- Cheese. Feel free to use different cheeses like cheddar, provolone, or a blend of Italian cheeses for variety.
- Seasonings. Customize the seasonings to your taste. Add garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, or Italian seasoning for extra flavor.
- Optional Toppings. Besides Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, you can add breadcrumbs for a crunchy topping or sliced olives for a Mediterranean twist.
- Vegetables. Include sautéed or roasted vegetables like bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, or spinach for added nutrition and flavor.
- Gluten-Free. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta and ensure the meatballs and sauces are gluten-free as well.
- Veggie delight. Add sautéed bell peppers, mushrooms, or spinach for an extra burst of flavor and nutrition.
- Spicy. Sprinkle red pepper flakes or add diced jalapeños for a spicy twist.
- Herbaceous touch. Fresh basil, oregano, or parsley sprinkled on top before serving adds a burst of freshness.
Storage and Reheating
Store any leftover casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Reheat individual servings in the microwave or warm the entire casserole in the oven at 350 F (175 C) until heated through.
Tips for Success
- Use a baking dish that's deep enough to accommodate the ingredients without filling it too full.
- Let the casserole rest for a few minutes after removing it from the oven to allow the flavors to combine together.
Yes. You can use homemade or store-bought fresh meatballs. Just ensure they are fully cooked before adding them to the casserole.
Yes, you can assemble the casserole and refrigerate it before baking. When ready to cook, follow the baking instructions, adding a few extra minutes to account for the chill.
Yes, you can certainly experiment with various pasta shapes to suit your preference. While rotini works wonderfully due to its spiral design, penne, rigatoni, or even spaghetti can be great alternatives.
Looking for more Italian-inspired recipes like this? Try these:
- 1 package uncooked rotini pasta 16 ounces
- 3¾ cups marinara sauce 1 30-ounce jar if using store bought marinara sauce.
- 3 cups water
- 1½ pounds frozen meatballs See Note 1.
- 2½ cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 teaspoon sea salt Note 2.
- Parmesan cheese Optional for added flavor.
- Fresh chopped herbs basil, oregano, or parsley
- Preheat oven to 425 F (218 C).
- In a 9 by 13 inch casserole dish, stir together uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, water, and meatballs. Season with salt to taste and stir. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Note 3.1 package uncooked rotini pasta, 3¾ cups marinara sauce, 3 cups water, 1½ pounds frozen meatballs, 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Uncover and stir. At this point you should check the pasta to make sure that it is al dente (firm but just about cooked). If it’s still too hard, cover the dish and return it to the oven until pasta is al dente.
- Sprinkle with mozzarella over the top and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes (or until cheese is melted and pasta is tender). Top with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Allow the casserole to rest for a few minutes before serving. Note 4.2½ cups mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, Fresh chopped herbs
- You can substitute fresh meatballs. Just be sure they are cooked through fully before adding them to your casserole.
- If you don't have sea salt, feel free to substitute table salt, but cut the amount in half. So, use ½ teaspoon of table salt.
- I recommend a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. If you don't have this size, select a baking dish that can accommodate the ingredients without filling it too full.
- Giving the casserole a few minutes to rest will allow the flavors to combine together making a more flavorful casserole.