No-Boil Baked Penne with Meatballs Recipe - Pinch of Yum
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No-Boil Baked Penne with Meatballs

62 reviews / 4.4 average

Baked Penne with Meatballs! No-boil, fail-proof, garlic-buttery, easy dreamy weeknight dinner. SO GOOD!

This recipe is sponsored by Land O’Lakes, Inc.

Alright, gather round. 

Let me tell you the tale of the no-boil, fail-proof, garlic-buttery, dreamy baked penne with meatballs.

The base of this baby is a velvety, savory, garlic-heavy tomato and butter sauce, which is just the right amount of clingy for those hearty whole wheat penne noodles. And the meatballs, spinach, and Parmesan round the whole thing out into a one-and-done type meal.

Baked penne with meatballs in a bowl.

But what I really need you to know is this:

You can mix up UNCOOKED – repeat – UNCOOKED pasta, tomatoes, milk (!), garlic, and butter, in a pan and pop it in your oven and it will bake into something that tastes like you spent hours on it.

The importance of quality ingredients here is obviously high, considering that there aren’t many to begin with. Which is why we are using the best of the best: Land O Lakes® Butter! The only butter in my fridge. I really believe the butter is THE thing that takes this baked penne from average to OMG how did you make this? Gotta love that golden magic.

Ingredients for baked penne with meatballs.

This is how you make it in literally one picture.

Mix and bake.

Ingredients for baked penne with meatballs in a dish.

Note the garlicky butter mixture with oregano, and the fire roasted tomatoes, and the pasta, and the cheese because I got a little extra greedy in this particular batch.

All of it, plus or minus your extras, straight into the pan.

Mix, bake, and voila.

The world is your oyster. Or… your bubbling pan of baked penne.

Baked penne with meatballs in a bowl.

You know that right now I’m digging the feed-my-family-in-two-snaps kind of meals, and bonus points if it’s easy enough to wear my baby in a wrap while making it.

This is that meal. Gold star, blue ribbon, new mom win.

Garlic, butter, tomato, penne, Parm, and spinach, HERE WE COME!

Watch How To Make Our Baked Penne with Meatballs:

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Baked penne with meatballs.

No-Boil Baked Penne with Meatballs

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


Baked Penne with Meatballs! No-boil, fail-proof, garlic-buttery, easy dreamy weeknight dinner. SO GOOD! 



Baked Penne:

  • 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta (half of the box)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/2 cup Land O Lakes® Butter, melted
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 12 teaspoons salt (I use 2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt)
  • meatballs, cooked shredded chicken, or other protein of choice

At the end:

  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • grated Parmesan cheese for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix all of the baked penne ingredients together in a 9×13 baking dish. Cover tightly with foil (double layer isn’t a bad idea).
  3. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
  4. Remove foil (HOT HOT HOT) and give it a stir. Add spinach and top with Parm, and brown it up for 3-5 minutes under the broiler. Let it stand for a few minutes so the sauce has a chance to thicken up. Voila!


Protein: This is delicious with meatballs (I used these chicken meatballs), and also delicious with a pound of cooked shredded chicken. If you do not include any protein, you will probably have a bit more sauce than what you need. As written, the base gives you enough sauce to coat the noodles AND the additional protein.

Veggies: Seems like kale would also do really well in this recipe. 

Garlic Thoughts: I find that garlic powder and onion powder gives a distinct flavor that doesn’t replace fresh garlic but fills out the recipe really nicely. It gives some of the same savory flavor as what you might get if you added a packet of dry ranch or Italian seasoning or something… without using a packet of dry ranch or Italian seasoning.

Al Dente Seekers: 30 – 35 minutes = slightly al dente pasta. 40 minutes = softer noodles. Keep in mind that the noodles soften as they cool / move into the leftovers stage.

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: baked penne, penne with meatballs, no boil penne

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Thank you to Land O’ Lakes, Inc. for sponsoring this recipe!

Free guide and meal plans for sugar free January.

One More Thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of easy pasta recipes. Check it out!

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    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      I’d love to hear an answer on that question too. I always have some frozen meatballs in my freezer stash – thaw or cook first?

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo
        Allison Caylor

        Hi! I thought y’all should be aware of this post I just ran across.

        I haven’t checked every ingredient in the recipe, but it is obviously a complete rip-off of this one (including taking the words of your post). I love POY and hate to see your hard work stolen!

      2. Pinch of Yum Logo

        We really enjoyed this! I followed the recipe exactly, except that I left out the spinach. I might cut back slightly on the butter next time but it was lovely as is.

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I’m eating right this morning healthy low-calorie tunafish sandwiches, and extra large avocado I think it’s from Florida with my knife and spoon ready-to-eat avocado as is after a split it open, a bottle of Poland Spring water, and looking forward to drinking apple cider vinegar water today.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      for the name of god i cannot see the connexion with this amazing recipe Lindsay is sharing with us but hope ur avocado and acv were good….:)

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This may be a dumb question, but are your meatballs precooked or do you put raw ones in there if using homemade?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      I’m wondering this too! In the first photo (with the uncooked penne) it looks to me like the meatballs are already cooked. But it would be great to get confirmation.

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Hi! I plan on making this dish vegan (trader joes meatless meatballs FTW!)

    Can you recommend a replacement for the 1/2 cup of butter?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Rachel – I was wondering the same thing… I think we could get away with using the same amount of Earth Balance or another vegan butter option… I’m also wondering if soy milk would substitute well for the cow’s milk?

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo

        Marisa- Good call on the earth balance, I love the olive oil based one. I think i’ll use that OR just plain olive oil. And cashew milk! I like it best out of all the non-dairy milks 🙂

      2. Pinch of Yum Logo

        Does anyone know if the pre cooked meatballs become dried out after being baked again? I make my own meatballs that’s why I ask.

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo

      Hi Rachel, I’ve tried it yesterday and I have replaced butter with olive oil. Obviously it turned out a little less creamy than pictured, but it worked well.

        1. Pinch of Yum Logo

          Horrible, honestly. I followed directions to a T and most of the pasta ended up uncooked and horrible. It’s not creamy…. just looks sort of watery. I’m hoping a stir and 10 more minutes will make it better.

      1. Pinch of Yum Logo

        Cristina, thanks for sharing! I was wondering if it would work with olive oil. 🙂

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo

    this sounds amazing and wish I had opened it yesterday before I made regular penne and meatballs:( I don’t do dairy so which do you think would be the best sub. for the milk? coconut milk, soy or almond milk . Thanks!

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This looks amazing! I’m heading on maternity leave soon – would this be a good one for your freezer meal suggestions? Anything I’d need to know if I was freezing for later eating?

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo
      Danyel Rickman

      I’d love to know the answer to this freezing question as well! Recently returned from maternity leave and our freezer stash has made the transition so much smoother.

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Oh this looks so delicious! I too am wondering about using frozen or thawed meatballs, please advise.
    Thank you Lindsay and POY team for all you do!
    I’m a long time reader from MN

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I did start to put together a quick meal this morning consisting of chopped meat, tofu, and possibly syndicated shrimp in a pan with olive oil. I got lazy and remembered I already had tunafish salad with a in the refrigerator so I ended up putting together two tunafish sandwiches and slicing a large avocado in half and eating it.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Thanks for posting this recipe! It solved my dinner yesterday 🙂 I love the very quick prep: a few minutes and then I only needed to wait for the oven to do its job: my ideal lifestyle.

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I made this last night and followed directions exactly. At 40 minutes the pasta was still not cooked. Finally, after 50 minutes in the oven and 30 minutes resting time, the pasta was al dente. Delicious but the timing needs to be checked.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Do you think you could mix everything together in the morning and stick it in the fridge and then cook at dinner time? I didn’t have time to test this morning, but definitely will in the future (unless the Pinch of Yum kitchen beats me to it!).

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I was wondering what to make for dinner last night and then this popped into my inbox! It turned out great, and loved that all the ingredients are things I normally have in the house anyways. Substituted some bison sausage I had for the meatballs. For mine, after 40 min the pasta hadn’t absorbed enough liquid yet (I used 1% milk instead of whole since that’s what I had on hand- maybe that’s why?), but I gave it a quick stir and stuck it back in the oven for another 10 minutes and then it was perfect!

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo

    This looks wonderful and I can’t wait to try. Can this recipe be doubled to use a full 16 oz. box of penne?

    PS – made the lemon chicken orzo soup and it is absolutely delish!

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I was so excited to make this because it looked so stupid easy! But the sauce never thickened and mine turned out to be a milky-buttery soup and I’m not sure why. Anyone else have that experience?

    I followed the recipe exactly.

    1. Pinch of Yum Logo

      I had the exact same experience when I made it tonight. Tasted great but the sauce never thickened. 😕

    2. Pinch of Yum Logo

      I had the same experience and am disappointed! I wonder why it never thickened? I added some marinara from a jar and a bit of shredded mozzarella before baking it another 15 minutes and it helped.

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo

    So good. I added some jalapeños for a kick of spice, and this was divine! So glad I finally tried one of your recipes out – I’m hooked.

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I made this tonight! I loved the flavor but gave it 4/5 stars because I didn’t think the whole grain penne held up to being cooked in the oven. Still an easy recipe (if you make the meatballs ahead of time) for a hearty weeknight meal.