Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

Sure, a dump-and-bake meatball casserole is an easy and delicious meal that is perfect for a busy weeknight. The idea behind dump-and-bake recipes is that you simply “dump” all the ingredients into a baking dish, and then you “bake” it in the oven without any pre-cooking or sautéing required. Here’s a simple recipe to follow:

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 to 24-ounce) package of frozen meatballs (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 (16-ounce) box of uncooked short pasta (penne, rotini, etc.)
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar of marinara sauce or your preferred pasta sauce
  • 2 to 3 cups of chicken broth or water (enough to cover the pasta)
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley or basil, chopped (for garnish, optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the Oven: Set your oven to 375°F (190°C) and allow it to heat while you assemble the casserole.
  2. Prepare the Baking Dish: Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. Combine Ingredients: In the baking dish, combine frozen meatballs, uncooked pasta, marinara sauce, chicken broth, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Stir well to ensure that the pasta is fully coated and the ingredients are evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  4. Cover and Bake: Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.
  5. Add Cheese: Once the pasta and meatballs are cooked through, remove the foil and sprinkle the top of the casserole with the shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  6. Garnish and Serve: Remove the casserole from the oven. If desired, sprinkle with chopped parsley or basil for a fresh touch. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Notes:

  • Liquid Amount: The amount of liquid needed might vary depending on the type of pasta and its absorption rate. Start with less; you can always add more if needed.
  • Customization: Feel free to add in vegetables like spinach, bell peppers, or mushrooms for extra nutrition and flavor.
  • Cheese Variation: You can mix different kinds of cheese such as cheddar, provolone, or a blend of Italian cheeses for different flavors.
  • Cooking Time: Cooking times may vary based on the type and size of the meatballs and pasta, so adjust as needed. If the pasta isn’t done but the top is getting too brown, you can cover it with foil again and continue to bake until done.

This dish is hearty and comforting, and the best part is that you can adapt it to suit your taste or to use what you have on hand. Enjoy your meal!

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