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Gluten-Free Weeknight Baked Meatball Penne Pasta Casserole

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.
Course Main Course
Keyword baked, classic, creamy, dinner, easy, fall recipe, food, gluten-free, healthy, herbs, holidays, homemade, indulge, kale, Lentil, pasta, recipe, savory, traditional, vegetarian, veggies, weeknight meals
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

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!

Notes

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.