Baked Ziti with Meatballs

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Homemade Meatballs star in this Italian comfort food that mixes cheeses and marinara sauce over a bed of Baked Ziti.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs featured image take from above

You know a homemade meatball when you taste it. The store-bought stuff you find in the frozen foods section is fine and dandy as an hors d’oeuvre you prep in bulk in a slow cooker but if you want to sit down and leisurely enjoy a meal that requires a knife and fork over toothpicks, then you have to make it yourself.

If you’ve never done so, you may be surprised to learn that meatballs aren’t just balls of meat (yeah, I was totally misled by that misnomer, too). There’s more that goes into them (literally… as you’ll see when you get to the ‘Ingredients’ section). Luckily, you have this recipe, as we not only teach you how to make delicious meatballs, but we also take you through the steps to making a cheesy ziti bed for them.

If you prefer a healthier rendition, try my Turkey Meatballs. Or if you’re a traditionalist (or a fan of Lady & the Tramp) go with Spaghetti and Meatballs. But if you’re looking for something familiar with a slight twist to it, read on.

Noodle Cooking Times //

Type of PastaAl Dente Cooking TimeFully Cooked Cooking Time
Regular Dried Spaghetti9-10 minutes10-12 minutes
Whole Wheat Spaghetti10-12 minutes12-14 minutes
Vegetable PastaVaries (follow package instructions)Varies (follow package instructions)

Ingredients //

The Meatballs:
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 lb. sausage meat
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
The Assembly:
  • 1 lb. cooked ziti, drained
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • ¼ cup basil, chopped
  • 2 cups mozzarella
  • 12–16 meatballs, cooked
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Baked Ziti with Meatballs ingredients

How To Make Baked Ziti & Meatballs // The Steps

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Boil the ziti al dente, according to the package instructions.

Step 2: Mix the onions, garlic, sausage meat, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, salt, and pepper well together.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs step 1

Step 3: Break off about 2 tablespoons of meat. Pack it together and roll into a ball. Repeat until you’ve finished all the meat.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs step 2

Step 4: Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet on MED-HIGH. Fry the meatballs for about 2 minutes on all sides.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs step 3 frying of meatballs

Step 5: Grease a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. In a large bowl mix the cooked ziti, 12 meatballs, marinara sauce, and chopped basil until well coated.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs step 4

Step 6: Pour the mix into the casserole dish and top with the mozzarella and Parmesan.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs step taken from the top

Step 7: Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until the cheese topping is golden brown and bubbling.

Top Tips For Perfect Baked Ziti with Meatballs

  • Be sure to cook your pasta al dente. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven and will reach the desired level of firmness there.
  • Don’t overmix the meatballs. Doing so could make them unappetizingly tough.
  • Line the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of the sauce to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  • To acquire a slightly burnt look and taste, turn the oven to BROIL for the last couple of minutes. Keep an eye on it though; you don’t want to actually burn the cheese!
  • Wait 10–15 minutes after cooking THEN dig in. The dish will have time to settle, the flavors will mingle, and the ziti easier to serve.
Baked Ziti with Meatballs featured image focused

FAQs //

Are the meatballs supposed to be pink even after I’ve cooked them in the pan?

They will cook more in the oven, so don’t worry if they are still a little pink on the inside. The pan is more about searing the exterior.

Are the double helpings of Parmesan cheese necessary?

Not necessary, no. But both contribute to the taste of the overall dish. If it’s too much for you then, by all means, do without one or both.

What can I use instead of Worcestershire sauce?

Soy sauce, coconut aminos, Balsamic vinegar, fish sauce, or beef or vegetable broth will all work. Obviously, the taste will be altered to varying degrees.

Can I change up the pasta?

Sure. Ziti is used because its shape cradles the sauce and is bite-sized, which I find easier to serve. But if you wanted to use a different noodle, feel free.

What do you suggest I serve with this dish?

What would this pasta dish be without a Caprese salad (or skewers, as it were), crusty bread, and a bottle of wine?

Baked Ziti with Meatballs featured image taken side view

How to Prep & Store Your Baked Ziti & Meatballs //

You can prep this meal easily ahead of time. You can prep the meatballs by mixing the ingredients together then rolling them into balls. Put them in an airtight container and store in the fridge; they should keep for up to 2 days. You can also boil the pasta then preserve it with a drizzle of oil and store in an airtight container in the fridge. When it comes time to dine, resume the recipe. Any leftovers should be left to cool then stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the meatballs for up to 3 months. I don’t recommend freezing leftovers, since the pasta will lose its texture and turn to mush.

Baked Ziti with Meatballs featured image take from above

Baked Ziti with Meatballs

Homemade Meatballs star in this Italian comfort food that mixes cheeses and marinara sauce over a bed of Baked Ziti.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

The Meatballs:

  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 lb. sausage meat
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup Parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

The Assembly:

  • 1 lb. cooked ziti drained
  • 4 cups marinara sauce
  • ¼ cup basil chopped
  • 2 cups mozzarella
  • 12 – 16 meatballs cooked
  • ¼ cup Parmesan

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Boil the ziti al dente, according to the package instructions.
    Mix the onions, garlic, sausage meat, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, Parmesan, salt, and pepper well together.
  • Break off about 2 tablespoons of meat. Pack it together and roll into a ball. Repeat until you have finished all the meat.
  • Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet on MED-HIGH. Fry the meatballs for about 2 minutes on all sides.
  • Grease a 9" x 13" casserole dish. In a large bowl mix the cooked ziti, 12 meatballs, marinara sauce, and chopped basil until well coated.
  • Pour the mix into the casserole dish and top with the mozzarella and the Parmesan.
  • Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until the cheese topping is golden brown and bubbling.

Notes

  • Line the bottom of the dish with a thin layer of the sauce to prevent the pasta from sticking.
  • To acquire a slightly burnt look and taste, turn the oven to BROIL for the last couple of minutes. Keep an eye on it though; you don’t want to actually burn the cheese!
  • Wait 10–15 minutes after cooking THEN dig in. The dish will have time to settle, the flavors will mingle, and the ziti easier to serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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