Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

October 12, 2020

This Gluten-Free Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole is a healthier classic recipe for the entire family! Packed with bold, savory flavors, this recipe is the perfect hearty, vegetarian option that is made with creamy ricotta + vegan meatballs tucked away in between the penne pasta and topped with a seasoned tomato sauce, and generous amounts of Mozzarella cheese. This is a sure crowd-pleaser and is finger-licking goodness on a plate.

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

This post contains affiliate links + sponsored links by Ancient Harvest.

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]. I love pasta dishes, especially pasta bakes. Honestly, they are the perfect lazy meals for during week or on weekends.

This vegetarian option pasta bake is truly amazing. Nothing short of flavor and it’s even perfect once reheated!

Of course, we’re in the season of comfort foods + easy to make meals and this simple meal comes in real handy, especially on those days when time is of the essence.

Of course, you can always search weeknight meals on our site for more deliciousness.

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

7 REASONS WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS PASTA.

It’s absolutely delicious—-creamy + velvety!

Super easy to make and quick (plus, no crazy clean-up! Can we say–Everything in a baking dish?)

Loaded with Cheesy flavors!

Full of flavor + well seasoned! (The best reason!)

Perfect chunks of vegan meatballs and creamy ricotta.

Entirely gluten-free and great for the entire family. 

Perfect for any time of day—Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast (if that’s your thing), whatever!

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

SERCRET TO A CREAMY FILLING?

The ricotta mixture. Simple!

In order to ensure that your filling for the pasta bake is smooth and creamy, you must ensure that your ricotta mixture is nice in velvety.

Since ricotta cheese usually comes out a bit thick, the trick to the ultimate creaminess is in mixing in a bit of the boiled pasta water. Yup. You’ve read right.

A few Tbsps of boiled pasta water loosens things up nicely and creates a nice smooth texture. So, once you fold in the parmesan and any other ingredients (i.e. kale or spinach), you’re good to go!

Since we’re on the topic of pasta—-I figured that you would really love the following Vegan + Vegetarian options below.

FAVORITE COMFORTING + SAVORY PASTA OPTIONS.

This One Pot Creamy Vegan Tuscan Kale Pasta recipe is a delicious weeknight meal option for the entire family. Packed with bold, savory flavors, this recipe is the perfect vegan and dairy-free option that is made with a creamy based made from cashews and filled with a nice velvety texture from the kale and tomatoes.

This Vegan Sweet Potato Pasta w/ Kale + Spinach is the perfect way to enjoy a good plate of creamy pasta much like the classic Alfredo version, without the dairy and cheese and of course with the amazing texture of Pappardelle noddles. This recipe is easy to make, light, bursting with ‘cheesy flavor’ from the use of nutritional yeast, dairy-free, and so healthy!

This One-Pot Cajun Pumpkin Alfredo Pasta is the perfect way to enjoy a good plate of creamy pasta much like the classic Alfredo version, but without the dairy and cheese (all Vegan), completely loaded with pumpkin flavor married with cajun seasonings, and of course with the amazing texture of Pappardelle noddles.

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

What Can I Eat with this Pasta?

Like many pasta dishes, this recipe can be easily enjoyed with a delicious salad of some sort. Then of course, there are warm salads like Roasted Eggplants, Grilled Zucchini, other Roasted Veggies, etc. 

Lastly, you can serve a platter of cooked veggies such as sautéed broccolini or asparagus OR the traditional route of garlic bread.

It’s all up to you. Mix and match.

What You’ll Need For This Pasta?

Gluten-Free Penne – My fave has been by Ancient Harvest. This version is packed with protein and made entirely from green lentils

Mozzarella Cheese – Makes things nice + creamy; plus, adds such rich cheesy flavor

Vegan Meatballs – A great vegan option made with veggies and adds a beautiful meatiness to this bake

Herbs + Seasonings – A great addition of flavor. Adds such savoriness nice + a beautiful kick of spice

Pasta Sauce – Can be homemade or store-bought. Always add seasoning to enhance the taste

Ricotta Cheese – Adds such a creaminess to everything

Veggie Stock – Helps to add extra flavor and creaminess

Kale – A great addition of greens

Olive Oil – Used for cooking

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

How To Make Your Sauce more Flavorful?

It’s all about the seasoning! Whether you choose to make your pasta sauce from scratch or use a store-bought version (the Rao’s brand is my fave by the way), adding seasoning to your sauce is KEY! Adding flavor to the base of your sauce with garlic and seasonings will add more depth to your pasta bake and allow everything else to marry together well.

Just let it all simmer together and slowly bubble as the seasonings infuse deeply.

Why Ancient Harvest?

OK, so I’m super excited to be partnering with Ancient Harvest, because I LOVE, Love their products, especially their pasta line.

Since I’ve been incorporating more gluten-free options into my diet, I’ve leaned on their products a lot more because a girl loves her pasta. Haha.

That’s why this Green Lentil Pasta is perfect. It only has 25g of protein per serving, making it perfect for Meatless Mondays.

My greatest reason for partnering with them, however, stems from their mission to create time-tested, plant-based, nutrient-dense ingredients and transforming them into delicious, real foods for real life.

This of course, aligns with my idea that eating healthy doesn’t have to come with omitting flavor and uniqueness therefore, it’s a no brainer that I worked with them on my previous Nachos recipe + this Baked Pasta dish.

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free]

Gluten-Free Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Serves: 6 servings
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Ingredients

  • 1 (9 oz.) box Ancient Harvest Plant-Based Protein Pasta Green Lentil Penne (See Notes!)
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag Vegan Meatballs, Homemade or Store-bought 
  • 32 oz. Pasta sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsps pasta water (See Notes for Instructions!)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • sea salt + black pepper, for taste
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2-3 Tbsps veggie stock, organic
  • 3-4 cups ricotta cheese (I use Part Skim; You can use regular if preferred)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, organic 
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Begin by cooking penne pasta according to the directions of the packaging for al dente (about 6-7 minutes) and drain (leaving aside 2-3 Tbsps of pasta water for later).
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, lightly grease a standard 9 x 13 baking dish.
  • In the meantime, in a pot on medium-high heat, add oil (1 Tbsp) and minced garlic cloves and sauté until fragrant +translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add in vegan meatballs and let them brown on around the sides, tossing them to ensure that they brown evenly, about 5-6 minutes. Remove meatballs from pan.
  • Add the tomato sauce followed by the veggie stock and whisk together. Add in seasonings and herbs and whisk until combined. Re-add meatballs and stir them into the sauce using a wooden spoon.
  • Let sauce simmer and bubble for 10-15 minutes before removing from heat.
  • Meanwhile, add ricotta cheese and a few Tbsps (2-3 at most) of pasta water and stir using a spatula until smooth. Fold in parmesan cheese and kale.
  • Add a bit of the tomato sauce to the base of the baking dish and then add in the cooked pasta. Spread evenly. Sprinkle a nice layer of mozzarella cheese (1 cup) for extra cheesiness.
  • Top with meatballs + tomato sauce and add scoops of ricotta mixture in between the pasta and meatballs all around. **NOTE: It doesn't have to be perfect.**
  • Sprinkle the tops with remaining mozzarella cheese until fully covered.
  • Loosely cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove foil paper and bake for another 5 minutes or so, until cheese has fully melted and browned slightly.
  • Remove from oven and serve with your favorite salad or bread.
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

STORAGE: Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
BOILED PASTA WATER: Since ricotta cheese usually comes out a bit thick, the trick to the ultimate creaminess is in mixing in a bit of the boiled pasta water.
ANCIENT HARVEST PASTA: This Green Lentil Pasta is perfect. It only has 25g of protein per serving, making it perfect for Meatless Mondays. Click this link to purchase.

DID YOU MAKE THIS recipe?

Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole [Gluten-Free].

ORCHIDS + SWEET TEA

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