Photo: Hector Sanchez; Styling: Heather Chadduck Hillegas  

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.

Southern Living JANUARY 2014

  • Yield: Makes 8 to 10 servings
  • Hands-on:30 Minutes
  • Total:1 Hour, 10 Minutes


  • 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.

Note: We tested with Classico Marinara with Plum Tomatoes.


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Meatball Pasta Bake recipe