Some time ago I purchased an Instant Pot, and while it is great for some things, I do not like it for pasta. I tried a couple of times and the texture was just wrong. It was, hmmm, what word am I searching for here? Gummy, and not at all appetizing. However, the idea of making pasta all in one dish seemed practically genius to me.
I started looking and found a video where a home cook placed spaghetti and other ingredients in a baking dish and voila, a short time later, not gummy pasta. Since then I have tried various pasta shapes, ingredients, and sauces.
This is a great dish to make on days I know I’ll be working late. In a magical world I would go to the freezer and get a container of homemade marinara, and a packet of twelve small prebaked homemade meatballs and set them in the fridge to defrost all day. However, in reality, that happens about one out of ten times. Most of the time I make this dish with a good quality marinara like Rao’s. It is worth the money, and as close to homemade as I have ever found. If the freezer is depleted of homemade meatballs too, there is usually a bag of fully cooked Italian style meatballs from the grocery, I like Nature’s Rancher.
Pasta Meatball Bake
1 16 ounce box pasta (I like penne, rotini, or riccioli)
1 24 ounce jar sauce (I like Rao’s Marinara or Arrabbiata for some spice)
12 thawed fully cooked small meatballs (I like Italian style)
3 cups water
1 cup shredded good mozzarella cheese (I use shredded Swiss)
Garnish with fresh basil or Italian parsley
Preheat oven to 425
Give a 9 x 13 baking dish a light coat of cooking spray. In the dish put the pasta, meatballs, pasta sauce, and water. I like to swirl some of the water in the sauce jar to get it all. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add red pepper flakes if you want a bit of heat.
Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Check the pasta, it should be just about done. Stir and add the cheese. We don’t like a lot of cheese so 1 cup is enough, you can add more. I use swiss cheese most of the time, because Dean doesn’t like mozzarella unless it is fresh.
Leave it uncovered and put it back in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove and sprinkle the herb of choice on top. I serve it with a refreshing salad with a tangy vinaigrette.