Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake - delicious and lean homemade beef meatballs in a rich tomato sauce all stirred into fusilli pasta, topped with cheese and baked in the oven until melted and golden for a perfect family meal.
Meatball Pasta Bake
My kids love meatballs and I like to make my own homemade ones regularly, varying how I serve them just to make it a little different each time.
Today it was a simple rich pasta sauce, stirred into some cooked pasta, topped with two different cheese and then baked in the oven until golden and melted. Delicious!!
While there are lots of great ready made meatballs out there, most are quite high in calories and fat, so I like to make my own using some extra lean ground beef (mince).
I prefer to add some breadcrumbs into the mix with and egg, it helps them bind together and keeps them nice and tender. Extra Lean meat can have a tendency to be a little dry for meatballs otherwise.
If you don't want to use the breadcrumbs, you can swap for some grated veg like courgette, or finely blitz mushrooms instead, anything that will keep the meatballs moist and stop them being dry. But overall I think the breadcrumbs work best.
Can I use other ground meat (mince) for Meatballs?
Yep, you sure can. If you don't like or fancy Turkey, then any mince will work. Beef, chicken or even pork. Lamb would be a bit too rich tasting for this dish so I don't recommend it. But any of the others are fine.
Oven Baked Meatballs
When it comes to cooking my homemade meatballs even if I am doing a sauce on the stove top, I also prefer to oven bake them for a few minutes.
Baking them just gives them a nice even browning and they keep their shape better. Then they can just be dropped into your sauce and there is no worry of them falling apart into the sauce.
Homemade Pasta Sauce
For the sauce I always start with a base of onions, garlic, celery and carrots and then will either use fresh tomatoes, or canned plum tomatoes - San Marzano are the best if you can find these. Then I also like to use some tomato paste (puree) and passata, it just helps create a really rich sauce.
For the vegetables, you can either just finely dice or using a food processor to blitz until really fine.
If you have young kids that have aversions to vegetables, then once the sauce has simmered, you can also blend the whole sauce until smooth if you prefer.
Why do you add maple syrup to the sauce?
For me it's a must, especially if using canned tomatoes which can be a little bit acidic, it just mellows all the flavours. It is only a small amount, but it really does make the difference.
If I use fresh tomatoes for my pasta sauces, then it's often not needed. I tend to go by taste, taste as you go along and you can adjust anything that needs adjusting. But if you find your sauce has that slight acidic taste, then just adding any kind of sweetener will really balance out the flavours.
I always have maple syrup on hand so it's just what I tend to use, but you can use a granulated sweetener or sugar if you prefer.
Sides for Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake
This pasta bake, especially with the meatballs and the cheesy topping is quite filling, so I like to just pair this with a simple side salad, that I serve up in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves to.
You can use any salad items you like or if you prefer pair with some of your favourite greens.
It's always a good idea to bulk out your plate with some healthy vegetables to ensure you are well satiated.
More Meatball Recipes
If you love meatballs here are some other delicious recipes you can make:
- Chicken Meatballs in Hoisin Sauce
- Creamy Cajun Chicken Meatball Pasta (Gluten Free and Dairy Free)
- One Pot Turkey Swedish Meatball Pasta
- Lamb Meatballs with Mint Gravy
- Moussaka Meatballs
- Lamb Meatball and Bean Curry
- Easy Chicken Meatball Cassoulet
- Chicken and Mango Meatballs with a Spicy Mango Sauce
- Porcupine Meatballs
- Firecracker Chicken Meatballs (Instant Pot and Stove Top)
- Coconut Beef Meatball Curry
- Buffalo Chicken Sweet and Spicy Meatballs
- Southwestern Turkey Meatballs
or if you would like more Slimming Friendly recipe ideas - head on over to the FULL RECIPE INDEX where you will find over 900 delicious recipes all with estimated calories and you can search by ingredients, course, diet and more.
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For the Meatballs
- 450g (1lb) of extra lean ground beef
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons of fresh finely chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon of onion powder (granules)
- pinch of chilli flakes
- 30g (1oz) of breadcrumbs
- 1 medium egg
- ¾ teaspoon of salt
- pinch of black pepper
For the pasta bake:
- Olive oil Spray oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons of Herbs de Provence (or can use Italian seasoning)
- 5 tablespoons of tomato paste (puree)
- 400g of Plum Tomatoes (San Marzano are best)
- ½ cup (120g) of passata
- 1 cup (240ml) of chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons of maple syrup (or can use a granulated sweetener if you prefer)
- 250g (9oz) of uncooked fusilli pasta (or use any shape you prefer)
- 60g (2oz) of mozzarella, freshly grated or torn pieces
- 60g (2oz) of cheddar, freshly grated
- salt and pepper
For the meatballs:
- Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl. Spray hand with spray oil and then form the mixture into 16 equal sized meatballs. Place on a tray lined with parchment paper.
- Place in the oven and bake at 200c, 180c fan, 400f or gas mark 6 for 10 minutes. remove and set aside.
For the pasta bake:
- Spray a frying pan with olive oil spray
- Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and fry for about 6-8 minutes until really softened.
- Sprinkle in the herbes de provence and add the the tomato puree and stir until all combined.
- Add the plum tomatoes and break up with the back of a wooden spoon, add in the passata, maple syrup and stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, then drop in the meatballs, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until sauce is lovely and rich.
- Preheat oven to 200c, 180c fan, 400f or gas mark 6
- Cook pasta in a pot of boiling hot salted water until al dente, then drain.
- Add the pasta to a large baking dish, pour in the sauce and meatballs and mix with the pasta to combine.
- Sprinkle with the mozzarella and cheddar and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden on top.
- Serve and enjoy (I like to sprinkle the top with some finely chopped parsley and a pinch of black pepper (both totally optional).
Please see below for recipe values:
This recipe is gluten free, vegetarian friendly (see notes)
- Slimming World: - 0.5 syns when using Healthy Extra A for the cheese.
- WW Personal Points: add ingredients to your WW diary for points value - as this may vary depending on your personal points zero foods)
- Gluten Free - use gluten free stock and pasta
- Swap - you can swap the cheddar for parmesan if you prefer and use any ground meat - pork, turkey and chicken are great options.
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Nutrition InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1 SERVING
Amount Per Serving Calories 520Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 96mgSodium 947mgCarbohydrates 54gFiber 6gSugar 11gProtein 27g
Nutritional information, syn values, points etc are an estimate and is to be used for informational purposes only. Ingredients can vary greatly from brand to brand and therefore it would be impossible to give accurate information. It is always advised that you calculate by the ingredients you use.