Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach

Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach

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Quick and easy to make, this baked pasta is weeknight indulgence at its best. Flavorful juicy meatballs are nestled in a bed of gooey, cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and dollops of fresh ricotta cheese.

I can’t stop thinking about them, especially the way they studded this baked pasta dish with that creamy ricotta cheese. These meatballs were made of a 50/50 mixture of ground beef and sweet Italian sausage, with garlic, cheese, and breadcrumbs.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

As a result, the Italian sausage made a huge difference in taste. I mean HUGE! Even life-changing. This recipe may have changed the way I make meatballs forever. 

This recipe calls for two ingredients that I always make from scratch: tomato sauce and ricotta. 

David and I aren’t big fans of the jars of marinara sauces you get from the store, or we just haven’t found one we like. Depending on the dish I make a Bolognese or basic tomato sauce or a combination, from scratch.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

I cannot remember the last time I bought ricotta cheese from the store. I have been making my own fresh ricotta cheese since Ina Garten taught me how one day on her show Barefoot Contessa.

You are probably thinking that I tend to overcomplicate recipes. Maybe I do, but that is not my intention. I simply enjoy clean eating and love the way real food tastes. A lot of people will sacrifice flavor for convenience. I do not. It’s kinda my thing. It’s all about planning ahead. 

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

For this recipe, I saved time by using some basic tomato sauce that was in the freezer and made fresh ricotta cheese the weekend prior.

How To Make Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach

Place the oven rack about 6 to 8 inches, underneath the broiler. Preheat the broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Cook pasta according to package directions, in a large pot of salted water. Drain; return the pasta to the pot.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the meatballs.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, 2 tablespoons of water, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Stir in the garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan. Let this mixture sit for 2 minutes.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Chop 1 cup of the spinach. Add the chopped spinach, beef, sausage, to the breadcrumb mixture; mix to combine.

I found it best to work the mixture with your hands like you would a meatloaf. If you use your hands, make sure you don’t overwork the meat, which can lead to dry, dense meatballs.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

When the meat mixture is well combined, use about two tablespoons per meatball to form 1 ½-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheet; about 20 meatballs.  Broil the meatballs, until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Pour the tomato sauce into the pot with the pasta and toss to combine.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella and about ¼ cup of the ricotta cheese, until it starts to melt. Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish and gently toss with spinach and meatballs. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and dollop with the remaining ricotta cheese.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

Broil until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com

I tore this recipe for Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach out a Family Circle Magazine. My mama gave me the magazine many moons ago. It’s been hanging around just waiting for me to pick it from the growing binder of recipes to try. I’m really kicking myself for not trying it sooner.

Gracious me, I may have to make this again next week…

         

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese. | TheMountainKitchen.com
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5 from 1 vote

Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Spinach

Quick and easy weeknight indulgence, this baked pasta is made with juicy meatballs in a bed of cheesy pasta with fresh spinach and creamy ricotta cheese.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Baked Pasta, meatballs, spinach
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 700kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups Mezzi Rigatoni pasta (any type will work)
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 large egg
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan grated
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces ground Italian sausage
  • 4 cups basic tomato sauce use your favorite jarred marinara sauce, if preferred
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese

Instructions

  • Place the oven rack about 6 to 8 inches, underneath the broiler. Preheat the broiler and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions, in salted water. Drain; return the pasta to the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the meatballs.

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, 2 tablespoons of water, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan. Let this mixture sit for 2 minutes.
  • Chop 1 cup of the spinach. Add the chopped spinach, beef, sausage, to the breadcrumb mixture; mix to combine.
  • When the meat mixture is well combined, use about two tablespoons per meatball to form 1 ½-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet; about 20 meatballs. Broil the meatballs, until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Pour the tomato sauce into the pot with the pasta and toss to combine.
  • Stir in 1 cup of the mozzarella and about ¼ cup of the ricotta cheese, until it starts to melt. Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish and gently toss with spinach and meatballs. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese and dollop with the remaining ricotta cheese.
  • Broil until the cheese is golden brown; about 3 to 5 minutes.

Notes

I found it best to work the meatball mixture with your hands, like you would a meatloaf. If you use your hands, make sure you don't overwork the meat, which can lead to dry, dense meatballs.

Nutrition

Calories: 700kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 166mg | Sodium: 2142mg | Potassium: 1518mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 6115IU | Vitamin C: 40.4mg | Calcium: 407mg | Iron: 7mg
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