Meatball Rigatoni combines juicy beef meatballs with al dente rigatoni in a simple tomato sauce smothered with cheese. A quick and easy recipe that will be loved by the entire family this pasta bake will tick a lot of boxes. Baked pasta with meatballs is going to be what they ask you to make again and again and again!!
The Pork Meatballs In Tomato Sauce, Meatballs With Polenta In Tomato Sauce and the Baked Meatballs In Sauce combine simple sauces with tender delicious meatballs. The Kottbullar gives us a gravy pairing 👌.
🤍 Recipe Highlights
I have summarised everything that you will come to know and love (LOVE ❤) about the recipe in the points below:
- Everyday ingredients: you will be able to purchase everything you need to make this meatball rigatoni bake from your local grocery store. They are all year round available ingredients that will be easy to get your hands on.
- Budget friendly: this meatball and pasta combo is a cost effective recipe that won't blow the budget.
- Kid friendly: the whole family can enjoy this simple cheesy pasta bake. There is no too intense or hot flavours, we are talking about a basic comfort food combo of meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese.
- Meatballs: are so very good right! 😉👌. Juicy, tasty and so much better to use homemade meatballs than store bought.
- Taste and texture: one of the highlights of this recipe is the variety of textures that you will find. From the juicy ground beef meatballs to the chunky tomato sauce and oozy cheese there is enough going on in the taste and texture department that a lot of your boxes will be ticked.
- Freezer friendly: you can make the dish, freeze it and then bake it down the track on a busy night when you don't have a lot of time and energy. Or you can portion and freeze the portions thinking along the same lines. It is a great recipe to meal prep as it performs very well both frozen and thawed.
The photo below is to show you everything you need to make the baked rigatoni with meatballs recipe. Please refer to the printable recipe card for specific ingredient measurements as well as detailed instructions.
As you can see the recipe calls for:
- Olive oil: we use a little olive oil in the initial steps to cook the meatballs before adding them to the pasta bake.
- Salt and pepper: we use salt and a little black pepper to season the meatballs.
- Egg: we use this as the binder or glue to hold the meatballs together. One small to medium free range egg will be perfect.
- Garlic powder: a handy pantry staple that works for so many recipes. This goes into the meatballs!
- Onion powder: as above and saving time chopping and crying. These are a complimentary pair to each other.
- Dried parsley: we use this to give our meatballs an Italian flavor.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: bright white and excellent to use in meatballs. You will find these in the Asian food section of the supermarket. They are very popular in Japanese cooking.
- Mozzarella cheese: this is our dreamy melted cheese. You will get the best results if you use fresh mozzarella and grate this with a hand held or box grater.
- Tasty cheese: or other. We need a 2nd type of grated cheese to offer a bolder cheese flavor than the mozzarella. You can use cheddar cheese, colby cheese or tasty cheese.
- Ground beef: also known as minced beef. This is an excellent quick cooking cut of meat.
- Rigatoni: a short(ish) pasta that has big holes in the middle it is excellent to use in pasta bake as everything flows together in a ooey gooey cheesy, dreamy, yum kind of pasta bake manner.
🧀 Sauce For Pasta Bake
- Worcestershire sauce: this is known for adding a little oomph to recipes. Give the bottle a shake before you use it.
- Tomato paste: thick and rich, this adds a lovely depth of flavor to the simple combination of ingredients used to make the pasta bake sauce.
- Diced tomatoes: these give both a lovely flavor and texture in the recipe.
- Passata: thick and smooth with a robust tomato flavor. This is the key ingredient to the rigatoni pasta sauce.
Top Tip: I like to provide you with a number of substitutions and variations giving you an array of options when making my recipes. If in doubt of any of the above ingredients, or wanting alternatives, read this section (further below) before jumping into the instructions on how to make the recipe which are coming next 😉👌.
Here are the step by step instructions to make the meatballs and rigatoni recipe. We start by making the meatballs.
- Add the meatball ingredients to a bowl (Photo 1)
- Use clean hands to combine (Photo 2)
- Portion the meat mixture (Photo 3)
- Roll into meatballs (Photo 4)
👩🍳 How to Make Meatball Rigatoni
Start the recipe by adding the ingredients to make the meatballs to a large bowl. Add the ground meat, panko breadcrumbs, dried parsley, salt, pepper and egg.
Then use clean hands to combine this mixture.
You can also use this time to preheat the oven and spray a large casserole dish with cooking oil and then set it aside.
Next use a mini cookie scoop to portion the meat mixture out onto a chopping board.
Once portioned roll each of the portions using the palms of your hands to form meatballs.
- Cook the meatballs (Photo 5)
- Use paper towel to absorb the excess oil (Photo 6)
- Add the sauce ingredients to the pan (Photo 7)
- Stir to combine (Photo 8)
Next we want to cook the meatballs.
To do so place a large heavy based saute pan or frying pan on the stove, add the olive oil and turn the heat to high.
Then drop the meatballs into the base of the pan (you can work in batches if you wish too) and cook the meatballs using a pair of tongs to rotate them as their surface browns. The meatballs will take 8 - 10 minutes to cook.
Once cooked, use a slotted spoon to lift the meatballs up and out of the pan. Place them into a paper towel lined chopping board.
Then once all of the meatballs are cooked use the tongs and some paper towel to absorb the excess oil from the pan. You can see me doing this in the photo above 😉👍.
Once the oil is removed from the pan we can get about starting to make the tomato sauce.
To do this reduce the heat to low then add the passata, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce to the pan. Then use a wooden spoon to gently stir to combine.
Read and follow the package instructions to cook the rigatoni. To do so place a medium sauce pan of boiling salted water on a separate element. We want this to be slightly underdone as it will cook further in the sauce and the oven.
So test a bit and if it is a little bit chewy, that will be perfect.
Then use a colander over the sink to drain the pasta and discard the water.
- Add the cooked pasta to the sauce (Photo 9)
- Stir to combine (Photo 10)
- Add the cooked meatballs (Photo 11)
- Transfer the combined mixture into a greased baking dish (Photo 12)
Next add the hot pasta to the tomato sauce and give this a stir to combine.
Then drop the cooked meatballs into the pasta and sauce and then transfer this mixture to an oiled baking dish.
- Top with both cheese types (Photo 13)
Once the pasta bake is in the baking dish, you can then sprinkle mozzarella over the top, followed by your 2nd cheese type. You can see this being done in the photo above.
- Oven bake the pasta for 10 to 15 minutes (Photo 14)
Once you have topped the pasta bake with both types of cheese, pop the baking tray into the oven and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes.
During the oven cooking time the cheese will melt and turn a lovely golden brown colour.
Once done you can use oven mitts to remove the pasta bake, place it onto a heat proof surface and then get ready to get your garnish on and serve it 😁👌.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
Otherwise you might find with the meatball, pasta and sauce combo all of your boxes are ticked and you simply want to give the family a bowl each and enjoy yours at the same time!
No need to save room for dessert, there won't be room after this belly filling satisfying pasta hits the plate 😂👍.
You know what I am saying right. So good, cheesy and dreamy!!
👍 How to Guide
How to Store
Next day leftovers taste even better!
Store the leftover rigatoni meatball bake in a sealed, airtight container in the fridge. The leftovers can be refrigerated for 3 days and are best consumed hot.
How to Freeze
Allow the dish to fully cool. Then portion into air tight containers or zip lock bags, squeeze the air out then seal. Frozen portions of the dish can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.
Or you have the option to make the recipe in its entirety then covered with cling wrap and freeze. Then when ready to cook, remove from the freezer, let the baking dish sit till it comes to room temperature (so that it doesn't go very quickly from a cold temperature to a very hot one) and then oven bake till heated through with the cheese on top melted.
How to Reheat
Allow frozen portions to fully thaw in the fridge overnight or on the bench during the day before reheating. Reheat in the microwave (fastest) covered with plastic wrap for 2 to 3 minutes.
😉 Substitutions and Variations
Here are my sub ins and outs that you might be thinking about as you read the post and I will tell you if I think they will work or why they won't:
- If you want to use a combination of 2 meats to make the meatballs you can. For example beef and pork.
- Or you can make chicken meatballs or use lean ground turkey to make turkey meatballs.
- Or if you like the idea of this but don't want to make the meatballs from scratch, I won't hold it against you (😂 much) if you use store bought meatballs.
- Other pasta types that will work are penne pasta, spiral pasta or macaroni.
- If you want to use regular bread crumbs in place of the panko breadcrumbs that will work (equivalent amount).
- Alternate herbs to try are dried basil, dried oregano or an Italian seasoning (in place of the dried parsley for the meatballs).
- For an alternative cheese type dollop some ricotta on top of the pasta bake before putting it in the oven.
- You can use crushed tomatoes in place of the diced tomatoes.
- You can use finely chopped fresh parsley in place of the basil leaves to garnish if you wish too.
💡 Tasty Tips
Here are my top tips and tricks that I want to share with you so that you master the recipe from the get go:
- Spraying the baking dish with olive oil will ensure that the pasta bake won't stick. This will also make it easier to clean up the dish at the end of the day.
- For the diced tomatoes, try and get plain ones. This way there is no additional herbs or spices in the tin with the bonus that we know exactly what has gone in to making the dish.
- The pasta bake will only need 10 to 15 minutes to oven bake. As the meatballs and pasta are cooked, it is simply a matter of melting the cheese and allowing everything to heat through.
🤓 Frequently Asked Questions
What is a good side to go with meatballs?
A side salad or garlic bread are simple sides to go with meatballs.
Can you use any pasta with meatballs?
Most pasta will work well with meatballs. For stove top recipes spaghetti, fettuccine and linguine are popular choices. Whereas for pasta bakes, macaroni, penne and rigatoni and great options.
Is meatball sauce the same as Bolognese sauce?
No. It is common that a meatball sauce is more simplified than a longer cooking complex bolognese sauce.
😍 More Easy Dinner Recipes
If you don't want to have meatballs for dinner every night of the week (and why not haha!!) then you need other options to tick the rest of the boxes. Here is a selection of recipes that offer diversity through protein taste, and textures:
- Salmon Linguine
- Black Olive Pizza
- Chorizo Pasta Bake
- Air Fryer Tortilla Pizza
- Linguine Alfredo
- Spinach and Feta Pizza
- Tagliatelle Bolognese
- Honey Mustard Sausages
- 500 grams/16 oz ground beef (beef mince)
- ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium egg free range
- 2 tablespoon olive oil to cook the meatballs
- 700 grams/24.5 oz passata Note 1
- 400 grams/14 oz diced tomatoes Note 2
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste Note 3
- 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce Note 4
- 4 cups rigatoni this is the amount of dried pasta before it is cooked
- ½ cup mozzarella cheese grated using a hand held or box grater
- ½ cup tasty cheese grated using a hand held or box grater
- black pepper
- basil leaves
- Preheat your oven: to 180°C / 350-375°F / Gas Mark 4-5.
- Baking dish: spray a large baking dish with cooking oil then set aside.
- Meatballs: add the beef mince, panko breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley, salt, pepper and egg to a medium bowl. Use clean hands to combine. Then take a mini cookie scoop and portion out a small amount of the mixture. Place the portion onto a chopping board and then repeat till all of the mixture is portioned. Then working 1 by 1 using the palms of your hand to roll the portions into meatballs.
- Cook meatballs: place a large sauté pan on the stove, turn the heat to high and add the olive oil. Then use kitchen tongs to place the meatballs into the pan. Cook them, using a wooden spoon to move them around in the pan and kitchen tongs to flip to the other side. The meatballs will take 8 to 10 minutes to cook. Once cooked use a slotted spoon to remove the meatballs and place them on a paper towel lined plate.
- Rigatoni: read and follow the instructions on the package for the pasta to cook it in a medium saucepan of boiling salted water. Test a bit when almost done and if it is a little bit chewy still that will be perfect. Next use a colander to drain the rigatoni and discard the pasta water.
- Tomato sauce: use some paper towel and tongs to absorb the excess oil from the saute pan. Then turn the heat to low and without rinsing the pan add the passata, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Use a wooden spoon to give these a stir to consistently mix together. Note 5
- Combine: add the drained hot pasta to the sauce and gently stir to fold together. Then drop the meatballs into the pasta and sauce mix in.
- Baking dish: next transfer the combined pasta, sauce and meatballs into the greased baking dish. Use a wooden spoon to push to mix into the corners and down slightly so that it is in an even (ish) layer.
- Cheese layer: sprinkle both types of cheese over the surface of the dish.
- Oven bake: then place the baking dish into the oven on the middle shelf and allow it to cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
- To serve: once the cheese has melted and turned golden brown use oven mitts to remove the pasta bake from the oven and rest it on a heatproof surface.
- Garnish: season the melted cheese layer with black pepper and then sprinkle some basil leaves over the top. Grab some bowls, forks and spoons and get ready to dive in!
- Note 1 - Passata: thick and smooth with a robust tomato flavor. This is the key ingredient to the sauce.
- Note 2 - Diced tomatoes: these give both a lovely flavor and texture in the recipe. Go for a plain tin with no additional herbs or spices
- Note 3 - Tomato paste: thick and rich, this adds a lovely depth of flavor in the simple combination of ingredients used to make the pasta bake sauce.
- Note 4 - Worcestershire sauce: this is known for adding a little oomph to recipes. Give the bottle a shake before you use it.
- Note 5 - Excess oil: we don't need to clean or rinse the pan after cooking the meatballs, as we have started to create the flavors, but there is leftover oil in there from cooking the meatballs and we don't want this in the dish/sauce. So grab some paper towel and tongs and absorb the oil and once done you can discard the paper towel.