Jan 19, 2024

Vegetable and Meatballs Pasta Bake - Comforting and Nutritious All at Once

There are so many diet trends going on, Mediterranean, keto, Intermittent fasting just to name a few. I kind of have my own rule of cooking and eating, and it's quite simple and basic. Make sure to have at least five different kinds of vegetables and if possible, five different colors daily.

Usually for pasta, there're not as many recipes using such wide variety of vegetables as I would hope so. In fact, I can only think of one common pasta with many veggies right away, pasta primavera. So to suit my nutritious goal, I've modified the meatballs pasta bake and used colorful veggies in it. Also not to sacrifice the taste and that comforting touch, a good amount of seasonings plus melted oozing cheese cannot be missed. 

Vegetable and meatballs pasta bake -

Vegetable and meatballs pasta back

Ingredients (for 6 to 8 servings)?

  • 500 grams penne pasta
  • 1 can/400 grams diced tomatoes
  • 200 grams pancetta
  • 600 grams ground beef
  • 1 pack/300 grams mixed shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 purple onion
  • 1 chunky eggplant (not the skinny kind)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper 
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 bundle spinach
  • 1 small bundle parsley
  • 1 teaspoon tomato purée
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Some olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper


Cube the pancetta. Peel and cube the eggplant. Destem and remove the pits for both bel peppers then cube them. Peel and cube the zucchini. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Finely chop the parsley. Section the spinach if too long to work with.

Ingredients for vegetable and meatballs pasta bake

Fill a big pot with water and add in good amount of salt, couple big pinches will do. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta till almost al dente. Once ready, drain and set aside for later use. 

Cooked and drained penne pasta

To make the meatballs, mix together ground beef, 1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasonings, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper in a big container. Once evenly blended, form into medium size meatballs.

Medium size beef meatballs

I prefer medium size meatballs for a fuller bite. In that case, my recipe will end up about 15 meatballs.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius.

Use a Dutch oven or other oven-proof container, we are going to cook the ingredients on the stove first. 

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil and switch to medium heat. Add in pancetta and sear till some fats have been rendered and some parts of the pancetta appear browned.

Transfer meatballs in one by one. Don't move them around too early, simply let them sit and sear till the bottom has been set, then it'll be ok to move to other sides. Continue to sear till most of the meatball surface has been slightly browned. Scoop everything out first.

Searing beef meatballs

Still using the same Dutch oven, drizzle more oil if needed and continue to use medium heat. Add in chopped onion along with 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Sear till the onion has been slightly browned. Add in garlics and cook till aromatic but not burnt. 

Transfer both the yellow and red bell peppers over and cook for about a minute.

Cooking colorful bell peppers

Add in the zucchini and eggplant, cook for another minute.

Add most of the chopped parsley and all the spinach. This time, a quick 30 seconds will do.

Pour in everything from the canned diced tomatoes along with 1 teaspoon of tomato purée and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Mix and cook for one minute.

Precooking ingredients for vegetable and meatballs pasta bake

Put the meatballs and pancetta back. Also add in drained pasta. Mix till blended. Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Vegetable and meatballs pasta bake before going into the oven

Top with shredded cheese, make sure to cover all the surface. Into the oven till cheese has been melted and browned, about 15 minutes.

Adding shredded mixed cheese for pasta bake

Once ready, bring out the Dutch oven and garnish with remaining chopped parsley. 

Vegetable and meatballs pasta bake

Vegetable and meatballs pasta bake

Let me do the final count again, there're purple onion, eggplant, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, zucchini, spinach, and tomatoes. Wait, does tomatoes count as vegetable or fruit? Anyways, there're more than five kinds of vegetables and I'm pretty sure I got at least five colors for the pasta bake. Healthy and nutritious, checked.

Vegetable and meatballs pasta bake

How about taste? After downing a whole plate, flavor checked, plus that comforting touch, checked too.

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