Meatball Pasta Bake


Orange juice and fennel give this quick supper bright, fresh flavor. Chop fennel as you would an onion, or omit it, if desired.

Meatball Pasta Bake
Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas
Hands On Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
8 to 10 servings


  • 1 (16-oz.) package penne pasta

  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb, thinly sliced (optional)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • 2 (24-oz.) jars marinara sauce

  • 2 (14-oz.) packages frozen beef meatballs, thawed

  • 1 cup fresh orange juice

  • 3/4 cup organic chicken broth

  • 1 teaspoon firmly packed orange zest

  • 1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup torn fresh basil

  • 1 1/2 (8-oz.) packages fresh mozzarella cheese slices

  • Garnish: fresh basil leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

  2. Sauté onion and fennel bulb in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and fennel seeds, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in marinara sauce and next 6 ingredients; increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in basil, cooked pasta, and salt to taste. Transfer to a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Place dish on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Top with cheese.

  3. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

  4. Note: We tested with Classico Marinara with Plum Tomatoes.

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