Homemade meatballs baked on top of penne pasta smothered in lots of rich, creamy spinach sauce.
This comforting pasta dish is perfect for serving on a special family night or bringing to a potluck or party.
The recipe starts by making the meatballs with ground beef, garlic, parsley, bread crumbs and egg. While they get busy baking there’s time to boil the pasta and make the awesome sauce.
The sauce is made of chicken broth, half & half, spinach (frozen or fresh) and Parmesan cheese on top of the stove where it’s then pureed with a hand blender making the spinach front and center in every bite from the first to the last.
You absolutely-positively must like spinach. A lot. It can’t be avoided, you can’t eat your way around it or pick it out.
They’re nestled on the top right where they belong, reigning like kings because meatballs rule.
It’s baked until hot and bubbly, until the sauce thickens up and the garlic-ee meatballs are cooked through, so your entire house smells like the best home cooking on Earth.
Until even the spinach hater in your house is so hungry from the delicious wafts of air they don’t offer up an ounce of resistance.
Because meatballs. . . rule.
- 1 pound ground beef (not too lean)
- 1 large egg
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
- ¼ cup seasoned
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 12 ounces penne pasta (or another medium-sized pasta)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 14 ounces chicken broth
- 1 cup half & half
- 2 cups frozen chopped spinach from a bag
nota block, thawed or 4 cups (loosely packed) fresh baby spinach
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- salt & pepper
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large roasting pan or baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease.
- Combine all the meatball ingredients in a large bowl with a fork until well combined. Form into meatballs (a little over an inch big) and place on baking sheet.
- Bake 12 minutes.
- Cook the penne in plenty of boiling salted water to al dente. Before draining reserve a ½ cup of the cooking water.
- In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook 2 - 3 minutes, whisking often.
- Slowly whisk in the broth then the half & half. Bring to a simmer and simmer 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the spinach and bring back to a simmer. Use a stick blender to puree the sauce right in the pan. (If you don't have a stick blender, in batches, puree in a blender, holding down the lid with a towel so the steam doesn't blow off the top. Pour back into the pan.)
- Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat.
- Butter a 9 x 13 baking/casserole dish.
- Mix the pasta into the sauce along with the ½ cup reserved pasta water. Spoon into the baking pan and sprinkle with mozzarella.
- Place the meatballs about an inch apart across the top, pushing them down a little into the pasta. Bake about 20 minutes until bubbly around the edges.
- Let sit 5 - 10 minutes before serving with more Parmesan.