Don't tell Grandma, but you do not have to make homemade meatballs and tomato sauce for this delicious pasta and meatballs dish. Of course, you can if you want to, but for a quick yet fulfilling weeknight meal, take advantage of quality convenience products from your grocery store. The night before preparing this ziti and meatball bake, put your frozen meatballs in the refrigerator so they can thaw. This dish is likely to bubble as it bakes, so we advise setting your baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, then add everything together in the baking dish. To make this ziti and meatball dish special, we added mushrooms, spinach, and pepperoni to the mix, but we think the secret ingredient is really the citrus. Sugar is often added to tomato sauce to help balance acidity. This recipe uses fresh orange juice instead for sweet citrus notes that boost the flavor of the marinara. Add a loaf of warm homemade bread and serve this meatball dish to your discerning Grandma. We bet she will love it.

Lisa Cericola
Patricia S York


Credit: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall

Recipe Summary test

10 mins
20 mins
30 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place baking dish on prepared baking sheet. Stir together pasta, marinara sauce, meatballs, mushrooms, spinach, pepperoni, and orange juice in baking dish.

  • Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, and continue baking until cheese is melted and pasta is thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes. Garnish with basil.