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Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake

5.0 from 51 votes

Easy meatball pasta bake recipe loaded with tender and juicy meatballs, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh kale and a delicious rich flavored tomato sauce!

Juicy Meatballs Kale and Mozzarella Pasta Bake

It seems I cannot shake off my obsession to combine pasta and kale. Funny thing, I just realized as I was typing the title that it’s happening again. I have to come up with some different pairing for kale. It was first the Italian sausage and kale pasta recipe then those delicious and creamy baked pumpkin manicotti and now, these juicy meatballs kale and mozzarella pasta bake 🙂

Here comes my first resolution for this year. No more kale and pasta..together!

I could easily give up kale but never pasta.

Or cheese. Oh, yes! cheese is that one thing I can’t go without.

My fridge at this point screams no more cheese. I have feta, brie, goat cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, asiago, parmesan and blue cheese. I always add some type of cheese to our dishes. We are all cheese addicts 🙂

Juicy Meatballs Kale and Mozzarella Pasta Bake

Today I have decided to add fresh mozzarella cheese to my meatball and pasta bake. I love the soft texture it has when it’s fresh. Like as fresh as you can get it 🙂 The best way to get some delicious fresh mozzarella is for sure to make your own.

In my experience, those water packed tubs can be quite rubbery sometimes so I choose vacuum packed mozzarella cheese. I definitely like more the texture and flavor this way.

Juicy Meatballs Kale and Mozzarella Pasta Bake

How to make the perfect meatball pasta bake?

This meatball pasta bake with fresh mozzarella recipe is so easy to make and beyond delicious! What is so special about it?

The sauce! The sauce is everything. It brings all these components together in a perfect meal.

Thick, rich, bursting with flavors from fresh herbs and good quality marinara sauce. It is to die for, no kidding.

Juicy Meatballs Kale and Mozzarella Pasta Bake

What type of pasta is best for pasta bake?

Any short type of pasta will work perfectly and will soak up the flavors of the sauce

  • any type of short penne
  • fussily (spiral pasta)
  • farfale

Do you cook the pasta before adding it to the pasta bake?

Yes, you need to precook the pasta in a pot of boiled water but for less time than it says on the package. Your pasta will continue and finish cooking in the oven with all other ingredients.

Juicy Meatballs Kale and Mozzarella Pasta Bake Recipe - Adore Foods
Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake Recipe

Cheesy Meatball Pasta Bake Recipe

Recipe by Adore Foods
5.0 from 51 votes

Easy homemade ground beef meatball pasta bake recipe for busy weeknight dinners

Course: Main DishesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time


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  • 2 cups 2 pasta, I used ziti

  • 1 lb 1 ground beef (500 g)

  • 1/2 medium 1/2 onion, finely chopped

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 cloves 2 garlic, minced

  • 1 large 1 egg

  • 1 tbsp 1 olive oil

  • 1 jar 1 marinara sauce (24oz)

  • 1 cup 1 fresh kale, roughly chopped (optional)

  • 2 tbsp 2 fresh thyme

  • 3 tbsp 3 fresh basil, chopped

  • 1 1 fresh mozzarella ball

  • salt and pepper


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/ 180C. Lightly grease/ spray with cooking oil a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
  • Add water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add some salt and cook pasta, according to the time suggested on the pack instructions, less 1 minute for al dente texture.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the ground beef, chopped onion, breadcrumbs, garlic, egg, salt and pepper and mix to incorporate all ingredients. Make meatballs and set them aside on a large plate.
  • Heat a pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil and add meatballs to cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides for 5-7 minutes. Stir in marinara sauce, gently scraping up brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add chopped kale, thyme and basil and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and fold in cooked pasta.
  • Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish, top with fresh mozzarella cheese cubes and bake for 25 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to stand 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley and basil.


Sunday 12th of February 2017

Hi! In step 3 it says "make approximately pan". I'm thinking some words are missing there? ;) looks delicious!

Adore Foods

Sunday 12th of February 2017

Hi Kelly, I have just fixed the recipe :) There were some words missing indeed :) Hope you'll get the chance to try it! It is soooooo good! Thanks for stopping by :)


Saturday 18th of June 2016

Looks awesome--can I substitute dried herbs?

Adore Foods

Sunday 19th of June 2016

Hi Amanda! Of course you can add dried herbs if you don't have fresh ones. I would add an extra teaspoon just to be sure you're not going to lose flavor :) Hope you'll enjoy it!

Nancy |Plus Ate Six

Wednesday 27th of January 2016

I have a bit of a meatball fetish - I have a whole pinterest board dedicated to meatballs is that a bit tragic?! Your gorgeous photos may have tipped me over the edge :)


Monday 18th of January 2016

This combination sounds marvelous! I could never resist all that gooey cheese!


Monday 18th of January 2016

Ohhh, this sounds so good! Savory, comforting, and cheesy. :-)