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 dish you know and love, but baked in the oven to make it even easier to prepare and serve!
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
The first thing you need to do is mix the meatballs (image 1). You will need ground beef, or a mixture of half and half beef and pork. I use beef with a low fat content so that the meatballs don’t leak a lot of fat into the sauce.
Put the meat into a mixing bowl, add some grated onions for flavour, a teaspoon or so of dried mixed herbs and a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspooon black pepper.
To bind the mixture you will need 1 large egg and some breadcrumbs. 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.
Mix everything together with your hands until well combined (image 2) and set aside.
Next, take your baking dish and arrange the spaghetti on the bottom (image 3). 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 garlic in a little olive oil, until the onion becomes translucent. Then add a carton (or a bottle) of tomato passata plus 1 teaspoon of sugar to reduce the tartness of the tomatoes (image 4). Let it simmer for a few minutes until the onions start to soften. You don’t need to soften them completely, the onions will continue cooking in the oven.
Stir in 1/2 cup of water to thin the sauce down. If the sauce is too thick the spaghetti will not soften sufficiently. Let the sauce come to the boil.
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.
Now form the meat mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs and arrange on top of the sauce (image 2).
Cover with tinfoil and bake in a hot oven (200C / 400F) for 40 minutes. Then remove from the oven and discard the tinfoil.
Cover 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 in the freezer for a few hours until them have frozen. Then remove them from the baking tray and pack into large plastic bags and put back in the freezer immediately.
The advangate of freezing the meatballs before packing them into bags is that the meatballs won’t stick together, and you can just remove the amount of meatballs that you will need.
The uncooked meatballs can be frozen for up to 3 months.
To use, remove from the freezer and place 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. You can also fry them 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 before pouring it over the spaghetti. Then just continue with the rest of the recipe instructions.
Convert grams to cups
To help you convert your recipes, I have created a handy Cookery Conversion Calculator which will convert ingredients between grams, ounces, tablespoons, cups and millilitres. I hope you will find it useful.
If you live at a high altitude you may find you need to adjust your baking recipes to compensate for this. You can read about how to do this in this post on baking at high altitudes.
Recipe – Spaghetti and meatball bake
Spaghetti and meatball bake
- Mixing bowl
- 8" x 12" Baking dish (20cm x 30cm)
- Large saucepan
- 360 g (13 oz) quick cook spaghetti 90g (3.25 oz) per person
- 450 g (1 pound) ground beef
- 1 large egg
- 1 medium onion grated
- 1 slice white bread soaked in 3 tablespoons milk and squeezed out
- 2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 large onion chopped into 1cm dice
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 cups passata (1 x 500g carton)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ 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.
- Place all the ingredients for the meatballs ino a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. It will probably be easiest to use your hands to do this. Set aside.
- Using a large saucepan, fry one large chopped onion with the garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until the onion turns translucent. Do not allow to brown.
- Add the passata, sugar and salt (optional) and simmer for 5 minutes until the onions soften.
- Add ½ cup of water and bring back to the boil.
- Pour the hot sauce over spaghetti in the baking dish and agitate with a spoon to ensure that the spaghetti strands are separated.
- Form the meat mixture into golf-ball sized balls and arrange on top of the sauce.
- Cover the baking dish with tinfoil and place on a baking tray, then place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and remove the tinfoil lid and discard.
- Sprinkle 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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