There are two meals I’m always in the mood. Seriously, I could never say no to a good pasta bake or some meatball pasta. That’s why we’re combining both today by mashing up a vegetable-rich pasta casserole with some meatballs and top it all with tangy pecorino! I know, this sounds like a real feast. But truth is, that this is a healthy and well-balanced meatball pasta bake with lot of veggies. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!jump to recipe
A Healthy and Well-Balanced Meatball Pasta Bake
Basically, this meatball pasta bake is a great leftover use for any vegetables you might have left in the fridge. Just because I used zucchini, mushrooms, and broccoli it doesn’t mean that nothing else would go well with this meatball pasta bake.
In fact, feel free to add kale, eggplant, cauliflower or any other vegetable of your choice or substitute one of mine with it.
And since we have such a huge amount of veggies wrapped up in this meal and thanks to the whole wheat pasta, this pasta bake provides so much fiber. That’s just perfect for a healthy and well-functioning digestion.
In addition, the recipe follows the idea of the plate method. Therefore, half of the serving is made out of vegetables, a quarter is covered by the whole wheat pasta and one by the meatballs.
On top of that, the ground beef, eggs, olives, the oil and cheese provide a sufficient, but not to big amount of fats.
The quantities, as they are given in the recipe below, are approximately equal to four servings. However, feel free to double, halve or quarter them to cook for more or less people or to prepare a few servings ahead.
If you would like a larger portion or one with more or less calories, carbs, proteins or fats, feel free to adjust the amount of carbs and/or protein and fats to your individual needs.
I always base portion sizes on my personal dietary needs (presumably those of the average woman). However, you or perhaps one of your fellow eaters may need more (or less) than I do.
Ingredients for the Meatballs:
- 400 grams or 14 ounces of 95% lean ground beef
- 30 grams or a 1/3 cup of oat flour (alternatively 30 grams of breadcrumbs)
- two small to medium-sized eggs
- one tablespoons of chopped parsley (frozen or dried is perfectly fine as well)
- one clove of garlic, finely chopped, some salt and pepper
- one big zucchini
- 400 grams or about 14 ounces of broccoli
- 400 grams of mushrooms (about 14 ounces)
- two teaspoons of olive oil
- 500 grams or 17.5 ounces of cherry tomatoes
- 30 grams of black olives (about xx olives)
- one cloves of garlic
- 200 grams or 7 ounces of whole grain penne
- salt, pepper, and some pasta alla Puttanesca seasoning
- 40 grams or ½ cup of freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Alternatives and Substitutions:
To turn this meatball pasta bake into a vegetarian or even plant-based meal, you can use some store-bought vegan meatballs instead. Prepare them according to the package instructions and add them to the pasta bake just before putting it in the oven. For a plant-based version swap out the pecorino cheese for some vegan pasta cheese as well.
As mentioned earlier, feel free to use another vegetable of your choice instead of zucchini, mushrooms, and broccoli.
Also, you can omit the olives if you like. However, I think they add such a great flavor to this recipe. So, my tip is to just give it a try. If you don’t like them after all, you can just pick them out later.
Meatball Pasta Bake – Here’s how it’s done
To make the cooking process a bit easier, it’s best to prepare the veggies first. Therefore, start with washing the broccoli, zucchini and tomatoes and cleaning the mushrooms. Then cut the broccoli into florets and chop them even a bit smaller.
Quarter the zucchini lengthwise and cut them into thin slices. Also slice the mushrooms thinly and halve or quarter the tomatoes.
Now put all those veggies aside for a moment while preparing the meatballs.
To make the meatballs, first preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F convection (or 200°C/400°F if you don’t have an convection oven). Then put all the ingredients in a bowl and knead or mix them with your hands or a spoon until they form a homogeneous mixture.
Now form about several small meatballs of equal size and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. I prefer to use my smallest ice cream scoop with a diameter of 4cm (1.6 inches) for this task. This way they all have the same baking time, and the mixture is easier to scoop out.
Put the meatballs in the oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, you can take care of the other components. After 15 minuets make sure to take them out of the oven and adjusting the temperature to 160°C or 320°F (or 350°F if you don’t use of have the convection function).
Vegetable Rich Pasta Bake
We’re moving on to the next part of this recipe. Therefore, heat a large, coated pan on medium-high heat with one teaspoon of olive oil. Also heat up a pot with water and cook the pasta according to the package instructions as soon as the water is boiling. Make sure to save about 1 ½ cups of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
Add the broccoli to the pan sauté it for about two to three minutes bevor adding the zucchini. Sauté both for another four to five minutes before adding the mushrooms for another two to three minutes.
In the meantime, peel and finely dice the garlic. You can also pit the olives if necessary and chop them finely.
Take the vegetables out of the pan and put them into a large baking dish. Now add the rest of the oil as well as the tomatoes and sauté them over medium heat for a few minutes.
Now add the garlic and olives to the tomatoes, fry them briefly before you reduce the heat again and deglaze the sauce with the pasta water and season to taste with salt, pepper, and the pasta alla Puttanesca seasoning.
Top with Cheese and Enjoy…
Now you can mix all the components together. First add the pasta and the tomato sauce to the vegetables and mix everything well. Then mix in the meatballs and sprinkle everything with the grated cheese.
Finally put the meatball pasta bake into the oven. After about 15 minutes the cheese should be nicely melted, the vegetables should be slightly crispy and the meatballs perfectly cooked. And finally, serve and enjoy this protein-packed meatball pasta bake.
I hope you like this delicious recipe for my version of a healthy meatball pasta bake! If so, make sure to give it a try. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments, or send me a massage via email or Instagram (@julesbalancedrecipes).
And in case, you’ve tried this meatball pasta bake, I’d appreciate your comment and rating on this recipe. It’s easy to do via the comments section below this post and it would mean the world to me.
Have fun trying it out and bon appétit,
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Meatball Pasta Bake
- 1 baking tray lined with parchment paper
- 1 small ice cream scoop optional (1.6 in big)
- 1 large, coated pan
- 1 saucepan or small pot (with lid)
- 1 large ovenproff casserole dish
- 400 g lean ground beaf ~14 oz
- 30 g oat flour ~ ⅓ cup
alternatively 30g of breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs small to medium-sized
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley frozen, dried or fresh
- 1 clove of garlic, fineyl chopped
- salt, pepper
- 400 g broccoli **
- 1 zucchini **
- 400 g mushrooms **
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 500 g cherry tomatoes ~ 17.5 oz
- 30 g black olives ~ 5-7 olives
- 1 garlic clove
- 200 g whole grain pasta e.g. penne (~7 oz)
- salt, pepper, pasta alla Puttanesca seasoning
- 40 g freshly grated Pecorino cheese *** ~ ½ cup
- Wash the broccoli, zucchini, and tomatoes thoroughly, clean the mushrooms with some kitchen paper. Cut the broccoli into small florets, quarter the zucchini lengthwise and slice it thinly. Sice the mushrooms thinly as well and cut the tomatoes in half. Set them aside while preparing the meatballs.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F convection (or 200°C/400°F if you don’t have a convection oven). Knead or mix all ingredients for the meatballs with your hands or a spoon to a homogeneous mass.
- Make 30 to 32 equal-sized meatballs with a diameter of about 4 cm or 1.6 inches and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake them in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then remove them from the oven, set aside and adjust the temperature to 160°C or 320°F (180°C/350°F if not using/having the convection function).
Vegetables & Pasta
- Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of oil in the pan and bring one pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli to the pan and sauté it over medium-high to high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and sauté both over medium-high heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Next, add the mushrooms and sauté for another two to three minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Set aside some pasta water (300 to 400ml or 1 ½ cup) before draining.
- Transfert he vegetables to the baking dish, put the pan back on the stove, add the remaining olive oil and the tomatoes and sauté over medium heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, peel and finely dice the garlic, pit the olives if necessary and chop them. Then add both to the tomatoes, sauté briefly and deglaze the sauce with the pasta water. Reduce the heat to low, season it with salt, pepper and the Puttanesca seasoning and let it simmer for one or two minutes.
- Add the pasta and the tomato sauce to the vegetables, stir to combine. Add the meatballs and sprinkle the fresh grated cheese evenly on top of casserole. Place it in the oven for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted nicely, then serve.
- calories: 522 kcal
- fat: 18 g
- carbohydrates: 47 g
- protein: 42 g