This pasta bake was fantastic! I’m a huge advocator of casserole type dinners and this one just takes the cake. I mean, it could feed a family of 6 with leftovers, easliy. It makes a crazy HUGE meal. But even more important than that- it was super delicious!! And it could be prepared as complicated, from scratch as you want, with freshly shredded cheese along with homemade meatballs and sauce. OR you can opt for any easy, throw together dish and buy packaged shredded cheese and your favorite frozen meatballs and jar sauce! It really is the perfect dish to satisfy both the “from scratch cook” and the “I’m too busy” or “I hate cooking” cook. And the best part is that either way you prepare it, you’ll get a delicious meal.
How many of you are fans of creamy pastas? I don’t know about you, but I am violently waving my hand right now… Well, this dish is a creamy and cheesy baked pasta with red sauce and meatballs. It’s amazing. You know how sometimes pasta bakes dry out because they absorb a lot of the sauce? This dish doesn’t have that problem. It is so overloaded with sauciness that it stays super creamy even after being reheated the next day. It takes the cooked rigatoni and combines it with a block of cream cheese and 1/2 cup sour cream. GENIUS. The tubular pasta kind of fills with the tangy, creamy goodness, making sure that each bite delivers a taste.
The dish is layered like a lasagna almost- pasta, meatballs, sauce, cheese- and again- pasta, meatballs, sauce, cheese. So you have multiple, alternating layers of texture and taste. It blends perfectly. Of course, the sour cream and cream cheese do lend a slight tang to everything… but! I didn’t find it too overwhelming or as a dominating flavor. I just wanted to let all of you know in case any of you might find that unappealing.
AND one last side note. I found the homemade meatball recipe that this came with to be awful and dry. I substituted it out for my Florentine Meatball recipe that I love. However, the Florentine Meatball recipe makes double the amount needed for this recipe, so feel free to freeze what you are left with and have them on hand for another “go-to” meal! As for the tomato sauce recipe, I left that unchanged because I thought it was wonderful and SO simple.
- For the Meatballs:
- 1 (10 oz) box frozen spinach, defrosted, cooked, and squeezed dry
- 2 packages (2 to 2¾ lb) ground turkey breast
- olive oil
- ⅓ cup onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup milk
- ½ cup-3/4 cup bread crumbs
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- salt & pepper
- For the Tomato Sauce:
- 2 Tb olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
- 1 Tb minced fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 (16 oz) box rigatoni pasta, cooked and kept warm
- 1 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 (8 oz) package shredded mozzarella (or 2 cups freshly shredded)
- 1 (5 oz) package grated parmesan (or a heaping cup freshly shredded)
- For the Meatballs: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray the rack with cooking spray.
- Heat a medium saute pan with 1 Tb olive oil over med heat. Add all but 3 Tb onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Take off heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, stir together the egg, milk, ½ cup bread crumbs, cheese, Italian seasoning, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Combine spinach and cooled onion mixture with bread crumb mixture. Add ground turkey and fluff all ingredients together with your hands or two forks, careful to mix lightly. If the mixture seems to wet, add additional ¼ cup bread crumbs. Form golf ball sized meatballs (on the smaller size is best) and place on pan. Bake for 20 minutes.
- For the Tomato Sauce: Add oil to a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, parsley, Italian seasoning, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat; let simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
- To Assemble: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine pasta, cream cheese, and sour cream. Spoon half of mixture into prepared dish. Top evenly with ¼ of the meatballs. Spoon half tomato sauce over meatballs. Sprinkle evenly with half of each cheese. Repeat procedure with remaining noodles, another ¼ of the meatballs, the remaining sauce, and top with cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.