Pasta bake with meatballs recipe
Pasta Bake with meatballs 

Serves 4-6.

This recipe for pasta bake with meatballs has kindly been shared by my Aunt in Warrnambool. She has been making this dish for years. It’s a feature at her table every time we go to visit her. The penne pasta are coated in a homemade tomato sauce enriched with lamb chops and beef ribs which my Aunt always makes a day or two before the day she cooks her bake so the flavour is at peak.

This dish is like an edible treasure chest and in addition to the sauce and pasta are little parmesan and parsley laced meatballs, plus a generous sprinkling of both parmesan and mozzarella.  When I smell the combination of parmesan and parsley it always transports me directly to Aunty Rosie’s dining room table. Make this pasta bake with meatballs ahead of time for a filling and flavourful weeknight dinner or for a dinner of four or so. I’d suggest serving it with some bread to mop up the pasta sauce and a simple vinegar laced salad to follow.


Sauce (ideally prepare this a day or two before so the flavour can develop)/

3 tbsp olive oil, for frying

1 small brown onion, finely diced (75g)

1 clove of garlic, whole and peeled

2 lamb chops

2 pork spare ribs

1 tin of diced tomatoes (400g)

1 bottle of tomato passata (700g/680ml)

4 bay leaves



250g pork mince

250g beef mince

3tbsp parmesan cheese, finely grated (roughly 10g)

2 cups dried breadcrumbs, (180g)

3 eggs

4g flat parsley leaves

1 tsp Maldon salt

2.5 tbsp olive oil for frying


Pasta and additional ingredients/

500g penne pasta

210g grated mozzarella

80g parmesan cheese, finely grated 



Heat the 3tbsp of olive oil in a medium sized lidded soup pot (set the lid aside). Once heated fry the finely diced onion and clove of garlic with the two lamb chops and two pork ribs. Fry until the meat browns on both sides and the onion turns golden, 9-10 minutes.


Add the diced tomato, tomato passata and bay Leaves and mix to combine well with the onion, garlic and meat. Allow the sauce to come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, add the lid and leave to simmer for 1 hour.


After one hour take the sauce off the heat, and unless you’re serving the pasta bake on the day, allow the sauce to completely cool down then store in fridge.



On the day that you’re serving the pasta bake, prepare the meatballs. In medium sized mixing bowl add the pork and beef mince, parmesan, breadcrumbs, 3 eggs, parsley and salt. Mix all the ingredients together and roll into small balls (scoop half a tablespoon as a measurement). When you’re mixing everything don’t be overwhelmed by the breadcrumb ratio. After five minutes of mixing all the ingredients will be distributed evenly. Before you start rolling the meatballs, get a large plate to place them onto. When you roll the meatballs, aim for a half tablespoon size as a measurement, so that they’re about the size of a cherry tomato. Once you’ve rolled all the meatballs set them aside and heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Once heated, cook the meatballs in batches. Use silicon tipped tongs if possible to avoid damaging or breaking the meatballs. During cooking, use the tongs to gently move the meatballs to distribute the oil and brown the meatballs evenly. Use the remaining half a tablespoon of olive oil if needed when cooking the remaining batches of meatballs. Lightly fry the meatballs until they’re golden brown but not fully cooked. The cooking will continue in the oven later on.


Pasta Bake/

Bring a medium sized soup with salted water to pot a boil and cook the penne pasta according to the package instructions, then drain well in a colander. Turn the oven on to 180°C.


Now the pasta bake with meatballs just needs to be assembled. Have your cooked pasta, grated mozzarella and parmesan, meatballs and sauce ready. Before you use the sauce remove the garlic clove and bay leaves.


You can use a large deep oven tray or a lidded Dutch oven. If you’re using an oven tray, line it with a layer of baking paper. For a Dutch oven leave as is. Now we begin layering. Start by adding enough penne pasta to just fill the base of the dish. Now add enough sauce so that the pasta is coated with it evenly. Now dot the pasta with some meatballs, sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan and mozzarella. Continue this process until you have no more sauce, pasta and meatballs. Sprinkle the top of the bake generously with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.


If you’re using an oven tray cover with aluminium foil and bake in the oven for one hour. If you’re using a Dutch Oven simply add the lid and place it in the oven. In 60 minutes you’ll have a comforting, flavourful dish that will make you and the mozzarella melt.



You’ll also like:

Home Chefs #6: Tiramisu

Home Chefs #7: Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sugo

Home Chefs #1: Chorizo Meatballs


Recipe Name
Pasta bake with meatballs
Published On