An easy and delicious baked pasta dish, with cheese-filled pork meatballs, a sauce and pasta, that cooks entirely in the oven, even the pasta!
If you like meatballs and cheese and pasta and tomato sauce. And who doesn't? Then this dish is for you! Yes, it may look like a bit of a hot mess, but it's an easy and delicious one and it cooks entirely in one pan in the oven. Even the pasta!
Enjoy this all-in-one baked pasta with a side salad and garlic bread, for a wonderful pasta and meatball dinner.
Ground Pork - I love ground pork here, but ground beef, chicken or turkey would also work.
Oregano - Fresh oregano is really nice here, if you have some on hand, but otherwise, dried oregano leaves are fine.
Spinach - Adding chopped spinach is a nice way to add both colour and extra goodness to the mix. That said, parsley is just fine, too.
Pasta - You'll need to use a small, tube pasta here, to ensure it will cook thoroughly. Ditalini or Tubetti is perfect.
Provolone - Mozzarella may seem like the obvious choice to stuff our meatball, and you can use it to stuff the meatballs, if you like, but trust me, Provolone is so much better! While it doesn't offer up quite the same ooey-gooey-ness of warm mozzarella, it offers so much more flavour.
Canned Tomatoes - I love fire-roasted tomatoes (Muir Glen brand), but any canned crushed tomato is fine here. I find crushed tomatoes make the nicest tomato sauce, but canned diced tomatoes will work here.
You will also need - garlic, egg (1), salt, pepper, mozzarella for topping.
First step for this recipe is to mix up the meatball mixture, then press a cube of cheese into the meatballs. Place in a skillet and pop into the oven to pre-cook and render off the fat. While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the easy, no-cook sauce by simply combining all the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
Once meatballs have pre-cooked, we'll spoon off and discard any fat in the skillet, then pour the tomato mixture over-top. The dish goes back into the oven to bake covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then the foil is removed and the skillet goes back into the oven to bake a further 40-45 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and rich and the pasta is nice and tender.
While this dish isn't "quick" in over-all time, once it goes into the oven, it's pretty much all hands off time, needing just a some quick attention as it moves through the cooking time.
While I love the "all-in-one" convenience of this dish, if you prefer, you can skip the pasta in the bake and just go with the meatballs and tomato sauce, then serve over separately cooked pasta of any type.
Pork Meatball and Pasta Bake
For the meatballs:
- 1 1/2 lb. ground pork
- 1/2 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/3 cup spinach, finely chopped (or parsley)
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano leaves)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 oz Provolone cheese, preferably Valpadana, cut into 3/4-inch-ish squares (or mozzarella)
For the sauce:
- 28 oz canned crushed, preferably Fire-Roasted (or diced tomatoes)
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup spinach or parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup tubetti or ditalini pasta, *see Note 1
- 1/3 cup water, (I like to swish it around in the empty tomato can before adding)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup shredded Provolone, mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Make meatballs by combining all the meatball ingredients except the Provolone and mixing well. Scoop out 1/4-cup of the mixture and form into large meatballs. Press a cube of cheese into the centre of the meatball and re-form the meatball so the cheese if fully encased. Place into greased oven-safe skillet (cast-iron is perfect!). You should get about 12 large meatballs.
- Place skillet with meatballs into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the fat has rendered off the meatballs.
- While meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce by combining all the sauce ingredients (including the pasta) and mixing together. Set aside.
- Remove meatballs from oven and spoon off and discard the fat in the skillet. Pour sauce mixture overtop of the meatballs and spread in and around the meatballs as best you can. Cover the skillet tightly with foil and return to the oven. REDUCE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 350F and bake, covered for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the foil and return to the oven to bake, uncovered, until sauce thickens nicely and pasta is tender, about 40-45 minutes. If desired, sprinkle a bit of shredded provolone, mozzarella on top to melt for the last few minutes of baking.
- Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes to set, before spooning out into serving bowls. Top with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.
Nutritional information provided for general guidance only and should not be relied upon to make personal health decisions.