This baked penne is so easy! Everything, including the pasta, cooks in one 9×13″ pan for the easiest baked pasta. There’s no precooking required (thanks to frozen meatballs) and minimal prep time. Combine everything in the pan, pop it in the oven, and not long after, you have the best comfort food dinner that’s cozy, hearty, and satisfying.
We’re taking the fuss out of baked pasta and making this ridiculously easy, very delicious baked penne.
The low fuss part has to do with the easy prep. No pre-cooking, no multiple pots and pans! Just one baking dish and ingredients that barely need any prep. For this pasta bake, they all cook together in the pan (including the pasta!).
The very delicious part has to do with the savory tomato sauce with the equally savory meatballs and just enough cheese on top to finish it off. It’s the best kind of comfort food made so, so easy.
- Don’t let the longish ingredient list put you off because there’s not any real prep work involved except for chopping an onion and I even have a shortcut for that to make this a completely prep-free pasta dish.
- We’re taking advantage of the freezer and pantry big time with this recipe. You might already have many of the ingredients on hand.
- The tradeoff for all the shortcuts and the one-pan situation is the cook time. It does take a while for the penne to bake, but it’s hands-off time! The best kind of time!
This is a recipe for nights when you want to cook but you don’t want an intensive cooking experience. This is so not intensive – it’s easy, breezy cooking at it’s best.
There are four main parts: the pasta, the sauce, the meatballs, and the cheese. For the sauce, I adapted my easy pasta sauce recipe to make it one-pan pasta-friendly. That means it has more liquid than the original so the pasta can cook in it.
- Olive oil
- Chopped yellow onion – you can chop it up yourself or use frozen chopped onion to make it easy.
- Canned tomato sauce
- Beef broth or chicken broth
- Garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- Salt and black pepper
- Red pepper flakes
- Penne pasta – you don’t have to boil and drain it. It cooks in the oven.
- Frozen beef meatballs – use frozen beef meatballs, turkey meatballs, or frozen homemade meatballs.
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil for garnish
Four Easy Steps!
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the onions, tomato sauce, broth, and all of the seasonings in a 9×13” baking dish. Stir to combine. Add the penne and press it down into the sauce. It should be completely submerged. If it isn’t add a little more broth.
Place the meatballs over the top and lightly press them into the pasta and sauce. They don’t need to be completely submerged. If any of the penne pop up above the sauce, press them back in.
Cover the pan with foil and bake the pasta mixture at 375°F for 45 minutes. After the time is up, take the pan out of the oven and remove the foil. Carefully stir the pasta and meatballs. Place the pan back in the oven (uncovered) and bake the pasta for 15 minutes.
Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Pop it back in the oven for about five mintues or until the cheese is melted. Let the baked pasta stand for a few minutes. Garnish with the parsley, if using, and serve.
A Few Qs and As
I have only tested this recipe with penne pasta, so I can’t say for sure if another shape will work. If I have to guess, I think a similar short pasta shape with the same cooking time would work but can’t guarantee it.
Yes, you can leave out the meatballs (or use frozen veggie meatballs) and use vegetable broth instead of beef broth or chicken broth.
For this recipe, you don’t need to boil it first. I developed this recipe so that the pasta, sauce, and frozen meatballs all cook at the same time. It’s like magic. This won’t work for all baked pasta recipes (like my baked pasta with sausage and cheesy baked ziti) – it’s all about the amount of liquid.
It depends on the recipe. For this one, you need to cover it for most of the time so the pasta can cook and absorb the liquid. The foil traps the liquid and keeps it from evaporating before the pasta can soak it up. Once the penne is almost cooked, you take the foil off. The excess liquid will cook off so you have a thickened sauce with the pasta. The best rule of thumb? Always follow what the recipe recommends.
Very good! They keep well in the refrigerator for three to four days or you can freeze the leftovers. The pasta will be a little drier after being chilled so you may want to add a splash of broth (or some jarred marinara sauce) when you reheat it.
You can pick up the ingredients for this baked penne to have one hand for those nights when you want a completely low-fuss dinner. Add a salad or bread on the side to complete the experience!
Happy one-pan pasta baking,
More Pasta Recipes
- Dump and Bake Chicken Parmesan Casserole – another easy one-pan baked pasta!
- Italian Sausage and Bell Peppers Pasta – super simple and full of fresh flavor from the peppers.
- Zucchini Orzo – this is one of my favorite easy pasta recipes to make during the summer!
- White Spinach Lasagna – this is a small-batch lasagna that serves four.
- Cheese Manicotti with Meat Sauce – comforting, hearty, and always a classic!
- Fontina Cheddar Mac and Cheese – the fontina cheese gives this easy mac and cheese the creamiest sauce.
- Ground Beef Stroganoff – always a family favorite!
Baked Penne with Meatballs
This baked penne is so easy! Everything, including the pasta, cooks in one pan for the easiest baked pasta. Combine everything in the pan, pop it in the oven, and not long after, you have the best comfort food dinner that’s cozy, hearty, and satisfying.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onions (use frozen to make it easy!)
- 2 (15-oz) cans tomato sauce
- 1 cup low-sodium beef broth (see note)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 10 ounces penne
- 16 ounces frozen beef meatballs
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Place the onions, tomato sauce, broth, and all of the seasonings in a 9×13” baking dish. Stir to combine (carefully so the sauce doesn’t splash over the sides). Add the penne and press it down into the sauce. It should be completely submerged. If it isn’t add a little more broth.
- Spread the meatballs over the top and lightly press them into the pasta and sauce. They don’t need to be completely submerged. If any of the penne pop up above the sauce, press them back in.
- Cover the pan with foil and bake the pasta for 45 minutes. After the time is up, take the pan out of the oven and remove the foil. Carefully stir the pasta and meatballs. Place the pan back in the oven (uncovered) and bake the pasta for 15 minutes.
- Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Pop it back in the oven for about five mintues or until the cheese is melted. Let the baked pasta stand for a few minutes. Garnish with the parsley, if using, and serve.
You can use chicken stock in place of the beef stock.
For the meatballs, it’s best to use ones that are between 0.5 ounce and 1.0 big for a total of 1 pound. Also, you can also use frozen turkey meatballs. Or, use homemade meatballs.
- Calories: 509
- Sugar: 10.3g
- Sodium: 893.4mg
- Fat: 24.3g
- Saturated Fat: 7.7g
- Unsaturated Fat: 14.4g
- Trans Fat: 0.5g
- Carbohydrates: 53.2g
- Fiber: 6.2g
- Protein: 21.8g
- Cholesterol: 54.6mg
Keywords: baked penne, one pan baked pasta, penne with meatballs
Post, recipe, and photos updated from the archives. First published in February 2019.
Awesome recipe, and your instructions and pictures were very helpful. Thank you!
Cooked exactly, but only had elbow noodles. Noodles were still hard by 45 minutes. Meatballs cool. Added more sauce and set timer again. Any tips?
April Anderson says
It’s hard to know what went wrong – with the oven at 375 I’m surprised nothing was cooked at 45 minutes. I’ve never had that issue so wondering if your oven was set correctly? If you followed all of the steps and measured everything correctly, I can’t see what the issue would be besides the oven.
I made this a couple weeks ago, and it was easy and delicious! I did not have low sodium broth, so used chicken base, and I think this made it a bit more salty than I’d like. Will def use reduced sodium next time.
April Anderson says
I’m happy you enjoyed it!
No rating as I haven’t made it yet, and because this is a comment regarding the pasta. Mueller’s makes this pasta called Ridged Jumbo Elbows that we have pretty much gone to in place of the Penne/Ziti/Mostaccioli, which we used interchangeably. Can be found at Wal-Mart and most stores that carry Mueller’s products. However, for this recipe, will probably go with one of the three (P/Z/M). Thanks for the post.
April Anderson says
Thanks for sharing that!