Baked Penne with Meatballs

Baked Penne with Meatballs

OH MY! This was SO DELICIOUS. I actually have to use all caps because it was THAT GOOD. I was craving small meatballs and pasta so I decided to make spaghetti and meatballs. I then realized I only had penne pasta, so I made my version of a baked ziti instead. This is my new favorite pasta dish. The sauce was tangy, a bit sweet and full of garlic and mushrooms while the meatballs were extra tender and moist. It was absolutely fantastic. We had friends over for dinner and everyone loved this meal.

Mushroom Marinara:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 6 oz of button or cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute until tender; add the garlic and cook for 60 seconds, stirring frequently. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for at least 2 hours.

Baked Penne with Meatballs


  • 1 lb lean ground beef (I used 93/7)
  • 7 button mushrooms, diced finely
  • 1/4 sweet yellow onion, diced finely
  • 1/4 cup of Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil (for cooking)

Baked Penne with Meatballs

Put the onions, garlic and mushrooms in a food processor to chop, otherwise chop them as small as you can. Combine all ingredients (except for olive oil) together gently. Form into small meatballs and set aside. Once the meatballs are prepared. Heat a skillet over medium heat with 1 tsp olive oil. Cook the meatballs until golden brown on all sides. Remove from skillet and place the cooked meatballs in the mushroom marinara.

Baked Penne with Meatballs

  • Penne pasta, prepared per instructions
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the pasta per instructions and drain. Pour the pasta into the sauce with the meatballs. Add the fresh basil and cheese – reserving a bit for the top, then mix VERY gently. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Baked Penne with Meatballs Click here for a printable version of this recipe

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23 Responses to “Baked Penne with Meatballs”

  1. 1

    Cheryl — August 1, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    Man oh man that looks good! I love the little meatballs!

  2. 2

    Paula — August 1, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

    Oh man, I should know better than to visit your blog when I’m hungry! This looks TERRIFIC and my hubbyman would love it. I love how you used fennel in the meatballs! Oh, and mushrooms, too! Great recipe! By the way, I made your perfect eggs today … they were “Egg-cellent”! YUM!

  3. 3

    Jan — August 2, 2008 @ 4:20 am

    That looks incredible, Pam. Yet another one to add to my ever increasing must try list.

  4. 4

    Tim — August 2, 2008 @ 9:38 am

    I’m sitting here reading food blogs, waiting to go out to a late dinner with friends, and this post is making me so hungry! That melty cheese… wow.

  5. 5

    Bill — August 2, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

    Wow, this sounds and looks like a delicious dish. I will have to give your sauce a try. You might want to check out the sauce my friend from brooklyn taught me to make:

    By the way your blog is beautiful and I have put you in my blog list.


  6. 6

    nicole — August 2, 2008 @ 8:38 pm

    Mmmm….That looks so delicious. I’m actually looking forward to cooking that perfect egg though. I think everyone turns to get the perfect egg.

  7. 7

    Sarah — August 2, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

    That is the best idea for moist meatballs that I’ve ever seen – will pass it on to the meat eaters in the family!! Thanks!

  8. 8

    Kevin — August 3, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

    That does look so tasty!!! Three exclamation marks!

  9. 9

    Heather — August 3, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

    I can’t wait to go home and try this little addition to my meatballs. I noticed that you try to cook recipes that are lower in fat. I bet you could use a whole wheat pasta with this dish and sauce and other flavors might cover up the fact that you are eating whole wheat pasta. Looks great!

  10. 10

    Heather — August 3, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    I can be found at btw.

  11. 11

    PaniniKathy — August 3, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

    This dish looks and sounds so incredibly delicious! The epitome of comfort food! 🙂

  12. 12

    Nate-n-Annie — August 4, 2008 @ 6:11 am

    Just be careful not to sneeze!

  13. 13

    Elle — August 5, 2008 @ 2:41 am

    I’m all over this dish. I love baked pasta, but never think to make it with meatballs. Great idea!

  14. 14

    Lisa — August 5, 2008 @ 3:40 am

    Yum! This is one of my favorite meals.

  15. 15

    Chiemi — August 5, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

    Oh YUM!! I’m definitely going to have to try this one out!

  16. 16

    oneshotbeyond — August 5, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

    This is so MY KIND OF MEAL! THX!

  17. 17

    Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) — August 6, 2008 @ 3:25 am

    You definitely have a winner here. It has flavor, that I can see and it is so full of gooey goodness…mmmmm!

  18. 18

    Erin — August 9, 2008 @ 11:56 pm

    What an excellent idea! I adore mushrooms. Can’t wait to test this out at home.

  19. 19

    Harry and Eddie — August 31, 2008 @ 5:48 pm

    I’m running to the store in the morning to get ingredients for your recipe. Lucky me: Lower-fat ground beef is on special this week. Yea!

  20. 20

    Anonymous — September 3, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

    oh man i made this sauce twice and it gets better every time thanks for the great recipe!

  21. 21

    Charity — March 5, 2012 @ 9:54 am

    This has become a family favorite! All FIVE kids LOVE it (miracle!) & so does my Italian husband so THANK YOU for a great recipe!

  22. 22

    Penne with Meatballs « The Adventures of a Calamari Queen — April 13, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    […] but I know here in the states it’s usually with pasta. This is the inspiration of the dish at For the Love of Cooking. 🙂 🙂 🙂 mmmmmmmmmmmm so so good.. meatballs with goooeeeyyyy cheese 🙂 Like this:LikeBe the first […]

  23. 23

    Caribbean Sunshine! — March 22, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    This was really good! I wished I made a bigger batch, but next time I will. It’s very easy and has a great taste. I usually don’t like meatballs but there were so00 good and soft. I crushed all my vegetables and herbs together and allowed them to become a puree then I took a piece of the ground beef and added the puree to it to form the balls. It was kind of messy but it turned out great! 🙂 I hate to cute lol

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