If you enjoy an easy supper of spaghetti and meatballs, covered with gooey cheese then you are going to love this spaghetti and meatball bake. All the flavour of the classic dish you know and love, but baked in the oven to make it even easier to prepare and serve!
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Spaghetti and meatball bake
When my children were younger and still living at home, one of their favourite meals was spaghetti and meatballs. And to be quite honest, it was one of mine too. Who doesn't love a hearty plate of spaghetti piled with juicy meatballs and covered in a tasty cheesy tomato sauce?
The only thing that put me off making it was the amount of washing up afterwards. There was a pan for the spaghetti, another one for the meatballs, and yet another one for the sauce. And if you wanted to melt the cheese on top you needed to pile it all into a baking dish before putting it under the grill or broiler.
So I devised this spaghetti and meatball bake as a way of doing everything in one baking dish (plus another small saucepan for the sauce - but still far less washing up). And it tastes amazing. Plus, you can serve it directly from the baking dish so you don't need any extra serving dishes either!
Apart from minimum washing up, the other advantage of baking spaghetti and meatballs in the oven is that once you've made the sauce and assembled the dish, you can just pop it in the oven and forget about it until it's done - this dish practically cooks itself.
How to make spaghetti and meatball bake
This recipe for spaghetti and meatballs will feed 4 people. You can get the complete recipe from the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
Prepare the ingredients
Make the meatballs (image 1) by mixing these ingredients together until well combined:
- Ground beef, or a mixture of half beef and half pork. I like to use beef with a low fat content so that the meatballs don't release a lot of fat into the sauce.
- Grated onions - grated onions will soften easier than chopped onions when cooking and you won't end up with large pieces of onion in your meatballs.
- Mixed herbs, paprika, salt and black pepper for seasoning
- Breadcrumbs - for bulk. I like to use panko breadcrumbs but you could also just soak a slice of bread in a couple of tablespoons of milk until it the milk has been absorbed. Then just squeeze the milk out and add the bread.
- A large egg - to bind everything together
Roll the meat mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs and set aside.
Next, take your baking dish and arrange the spaghetti on the bottom (image 2). You can do as I did and break the spaghetti in half so it fits width-wise, or just place the long spaghetti length-wise in the dish. To ensure that the spaghetti cooks properly in the oven you should use 'quickcook' spaghetti which is available from most large supermarkets.
Finally prepare the sauce by frying one large chopped onion with mixed herbs and garlic in a little olive oil, until the onion becomes translucent (image 3). Then add a carton (or a bottle) of tomato passata, a cup of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar (image 4).
I always add sugar to tomatoes as I find it cuts through the tartness. You can leave out the sugar if you prefer.
Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes.
Assemble the dish and bake
Pour the hot tomato sauce over the spaghetti in the baking dish (image 1). Use a spoon to agitate the spaghetti to ensure that the sauce penetrates between all the spaghetti strands. You don't want the spaghetti to stick together in clumps.
Cover with tin foil and bake in a hot oven (200C / 400F) for 10 minutes. This gives the spaghetti time to start softening.
Remove the dish from the oven, give the sauce a stir, and arrange the meatballs on top of the sauce (image 2).
Replace the tin foil and bake for a further 30 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the oven and discard the tin foil.
Cover the meatballs with grated cheese (image 3). For the cheese, you can use your favourite hard cheese that grates well. I like to use cheddar.
Return the dish, uncovered this time, to the oven and leave for another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted (image 4).
Remove from the oven and serve immediately with a fresh green salad and perhaps a slice of garlic bread on the side.
Can you freeze spaghetti and meatballs?
I wouldn't freeze the completed dish. However, the individual components freeze beautifully.
Next time you make this dish, why not make extra meatballs and a double amount of sauce and freeze half for another day?
To freeze the meatballs
Arrange UNCOOKED meatballs on a baking tray and place them in the freezer for a few hours until they have frozen. Then remove them from the baking tray, pack them into large plastic bags and put them back in the freezer immediately.
The advantage of freezing the meatballs before packing them into bags is that the meatballs won't stick together, and you can just remove the number of meatballs that you will need.
The uncooked meatballs can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To use, remove them from the freezer and place them in the refrigerator to defrost, then just add them to your spaghetti bake as per the recipe instructions. The defrosted meatballs can also be baked in the oven on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 200F / 400F.
If you don't want to use the meatballs in a spaghetti bake, you can also fry the defrosted meatballs gently in a little oil in a frying pan for about 10 minutes (or until they are cooked through). Give them a stir occasionally to ensure they brown on all sides.
To freeze the sauce
Ladle meal-sized portions of the COOLED sauce into rigid plastic containers with lids, and place in the freezer.
This sauce can be frozen for up to 6 months.
To use, remove from the freezer and allow to defrost. You can leave it in the refrigerator, or use the defrost function on your microwave. Bring to the boil in a saucepan (or heat in the microwave) before pouring it over the spaghetti. Then just continue with the rest of the recipe instructions.
Save for later
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Other pasta dishes
If you enjoyed this spaghetti and meatball bake, you may also enjoy these other easy pasta dishes.
- One pan pasta with spicy tomato flavour
- Ham and mushroom tagliatelle with black pepper sauce
- Homemade chilli bolognese sauce with spaghetti
- Pad Thai noodles with chicken and shrimp
Spaghetti and meatball bake
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 12 ounce / 340 grams quick cook spaghetti
- 1 lb / 450 grams ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1 medium onion grated
- 1 cup / 125 grams panko breadcrumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon dried paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 large onion chopped into 1cm dice
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
- 2 cups / 500 ml passata
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for frying the onion and garlic
- Pre-heat oven to 200°C / 400°F
- Place the spaghetti into the baking dish. You can lay it lengthwise, or break in half and lay it widthwise. Set aside.12 ounce / 340 grams quick cook spaghetti
- Place all the ingredients for the meatballs into a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. It will probably be easiest to use your hands to do this. Form into golf-ball sized balls and set aside.1 lb / 450 grams ground beef, 1 large egg, 1 medium onion, 1 cup / 125 grams panko breadcrumbs, 2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs, 1 teaspoon dried paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Using a large saucepan, fry one large chopped onion with the garlic and dried herbs in 2 tablespoons olive oil until the onion turns translucent. Do not allow to brown.1 large onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs, 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Add the passata, sugar, and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes.2 cups / 500 ml passata, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 cup water
- Pour the hot sauce over spaghetti in the baking dish and agitate with a spoon to ensure that the spaghetti strands are separated.
- Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the dish from the oven, arrange the meatballs on top of the sauce and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
- Replace the tinfoil and return the meatballs to the oven for another 30 minutes.
- Remove the meatballs from the oven and remove the tinfoil lid and discard.
- Sprinkle the meatballs with grated cheese and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes to allow the cheese to melt.
- Remove from the oven and serve with a fresh leafy salad and slices of garlic bread.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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