Cheesy, meaty, warm, and cozy. Meatball Casserole has all of the essential components for a truly comforting dish that’s perfect after a long workday or for a weekend family gathering.
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Whenever the air grows crisp and the days become short, I begin to crave some solid comfort food (like Crock Pot Turkey Meatballs) to cope with what’s truly the end of what any reasonable person (a.k.a. anyone who doesn’t live in the upper Midwest) would consider nice weather.
Meatball casserole is the epitome of stealthy healthy comfort food (same with these Lentil Meatballs).
- Zesty homemade meatballs made with a blend of Italian turkey sausage and ground turkey are lean, yet juicy.
- A package of thawed frozen spinach is nearly imperceptible and adds nutrition.
- Whole wheat pasta adds heartiness and whole grain goodness in every bite.
- Melty mozzarella cheese oozes and stretches with every forkful.
5 Star Review
“Just made this dish last night for dinner and it is INCREDIBLE. My husband, son, and I all loved it!”— Sharice —
How to Make Meatball Casserole
Meatball casserole is food for the soul.
This rich, hearty, and healthy meatball bake will transport you to your own personal little slice of Italy with its aroma of rich tomatoes, tender sausage, and melted cheese.
- Whole Wheat Pasta. Requires no more work to cook than regular pasta but offers far greater health benefits in the protein, fiber, and nutrient departments.
- Ground Turkey. Lean and packed with protein, you’ll never guess that these turkey meatballs are not made with beef (nor are these Baked Turkey Meatballs).
- Italian Turkey Sausage. Adds flavor, moisture, and extra fat to keep these meatballs moist and succulent. (These Cranberry Turkey Meatballs are another turkey meatball moisture marvel.)
- Whole Wheat Bread. Binds the meatballs and acts as a second hidden source of whole grains.
- Egg. More binding + moisture.
- Parmesan Cheese. Adds a salty, nutty component to the meatballs.
- Spinach. A pack of frozen, thawed spinach with its mild taste is nearly imperceptible in the final dish.
- Mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella cheese is both stirred into the noodles AND layered on top in thick, heavenly slices.
- Onion + Garlic. For a little zip and zing.
- Prepared Red Pasta Sauce. My no-shame shortcut in this meatball casserole bake that saves both time and hassle.
- Oregano + Parsley. For a blast of Italian herby freshness in both the meatballs and the sauce.
- Red Pepper Flakes. For a touch of heat. Feel free to adjust the amount (more or less) to suit your taste preferences.
- Cook the pasta.
- Prep the meatballs and brown in a skillet.
- To the skillet, add the aromatics and herbs, then stir in the jarred pasta sauce and spinach.
- Return the meatballs to the skillet and simmer in the sauce until fully cooked.
- Stir in the cooked pasta and half of the cheese, then top with the remaining mozzarella, and transfer the skillet to the oven.
- Bake the meatball casserole at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted edges are bubbling. ENJOY!
- To Store. Leftover meatball casserole can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- To Freeze. Freeze meatball casserole in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- To Reheat. Warm gently in the microwave, with extra tomato sauce to prevent the casserole from drying out.
Meal Prep Tip
Mozzarella meatball casserole is an excellent option for a make-ahead meal.
To make ahead, rather than assembling in a skillet, combine the pasta, sauce, meatballs, and cheese in a casserole dish. Cover, then refrigerate (or freeze) until you’re ready to bake.
To serve, bake as directed until the cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Skillet. Investing in a quality skillet is well worth the cost if you’re a regular in the kitchen.
- Mixing Bowls. A nested set of glass mixing bowls has endless uses and is compact for storing.
- Pasta Pot. Makes it easy to boil pasta to al dente and drain with ease. Plus, the 12-quart size is perfect for making extra family leftovers.
When making this dish, remember that meatballs are an expression of love.
They need to be shared, so call a friend!
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not made this recipe with precooked freezer meatballs so it would be an experiment. I would pick up this recipe at step 6 of the recipe card, warming the meatballs in the sauce until heated through, then bake as directed.
Sure! If you have a different meatball recipe you love, mix, shape, and brown them according to the recipe then finish the casserole as directed. These Baked Chicken Meatballs are one option to consider.
I have not attempted to make this recipe gluten free so it would be an experiment. To make gluten free, you could try swapping for my Whole30 Meatballs and opt for a gluten free pasta variety. As always, check your labels to ensure they do not include gluten or wheat additives and are processed in a gluten free facility.
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- 6 ounces whole wheat pasta any shape you love
- 2-3 slices whole wheat bread for making 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 pound extra lean ground turkey
- 8 ounces spicy Italian turkey sausage casings removed
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided, plus additional for tossing the pasta
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 32 ounces prepared red pasta sauce about 3 1/2 cups
- 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach squeezed dry
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella half shredded or torn, half cut into thin slices (part skim is OK but do not use fat free), about 2 cups total
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until barely al dente according to package instructions. You want it to still be firmer than you would ordinarily eat it, as it will cook further in the oven. Drain, toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking, then set aside.
- Pulse the bread slices in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. Measure 3/4 cup crumbs into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground turkey, turkey sausage, egg, salt, Parmesan, and parsley. With your fingers or two forks, mix lightly until the ingredients are combined, being careful not to compact the meat.
- Form the mixture into 2-inch balls. You should have about 28 or so balls total.
- Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep, oven-proof skillet over medium-high. Add the meatballs, then cook, turning a few times, until all sides are browned, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a plate.
- To the skillet, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and cook until beginning to brown and soften, about 4 minutes, then add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the jarred pasta sauce and spinach. Return the meatballs to the pan and let simmer in the sauce until they are cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Once the meatballs are cooked, add the drained pasta and the 4 ounces shredded mozzarella to the skillet with the meatballs and sauce, then gently stir to combine. Top with the remaining 4 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese, then transfer the skillet to your oven.
- Bake until the cheese is melted and lightly crisp on top and the edges are bubbling, 15-20 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then enjoy!
- TO STORE: Leftover meatball casserole can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze meatball casserole in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
- TO REHEAT: Warm gently in the microwave, with extra tomato sauce to prevent the casserole from drying out.
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