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I consider myself a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” type of gal, so when people ask me what tricks I have up my sleeves to get dinner on the table on busy nights or make an appetizer at a moment’s notice, I don’t really have an answer. “Well, Marsha, I’m a food blogger; I really don’t have much else going on,” sounds like a pretty shoddy explanation, you know?
But the truth is I’ve been saved many a time by one “trick”, if you’d like to call it that. And that’s making sure I always have the building blocks to simple recipes on hand. For example, I generally have like a thousand meatballs stocked up– as in we have a second chest freezer that is 50% meatballs. Gotta be prepared incase my entire high school graduating class decides to drop by unannounced for dinner some day.
Why the obsession with meatballs? Because you can do pretty much anything with them. Throw them in a slow cooker with cherry jam and chipotles in adobo for a sweet-and-spicy appetizer. Tuck them in a pita with some quick tzatziki for a cheater’s gyro. Toss them with some cheese, sauce, black beans, and rigatoni to create an Enchilada Meatball Pasta Bake.
With meatballs, you’ve got options.
So since National Meatball Day is March 9th, I figured I should share a simple meatball dinner with you. One that requires pretty much no planning, and lets you heat the meatballs without even having to thaw them first. Yup, it’s that Enchilada Meatball Pasta Bake I mentioned, and it’s crazy good.
I use Cooked Perfect Meatballs for this recipe because I have billions of bagfuls of them. But also because the Angus Beef variety is made with real angus meat and bell peppers, which works wonderfully with the flavors of this Mexican-Italian fusion recipe.
I got my Cooked Perfect Meatballs from the frozen aisle, as you can see in this pic. I can almost guarantee you that you’ll have no trouble finding them, but just to make sure, feel free to check out the locator.
Because the meatballs are already cooked through (hence the name Cooked Perfect), you don’t have to thaw them out or waste time browning them before dumping everything together. And luckily, you don’t have to cook the pasta before making this bake, either. Shortcuts, baby. It’s all about the shortcuts.
All you’ve got to do is simply combine the uncooked pasta, frozen meatballs, black beans, creamy enchilada sauce, and some shredded cheese and pop it in the oven. Don’t worry about the fact that it looks like a liquidy mess to start. The pasta will absorb all of the excess liquid, taking on its flavor and thickening the sauce.
See what I mean? Now I don’t know about you but I had a hard time resisting that saucy dish as it was, but we’re not done yet. When the pasta is tender and the meatballs are warmed through, we still have more shredded cheese to deal with. And what better way to do so than to load it all on top of our Enchilada Meatball Pasta Bake and let it melt into a gorgeous pool of golden goodness in the oven.
I throw some avocado and fresh cilantro on top to brighten things up, if I have them on hand. If not, not to worry, the Enchilada Meatball Pasta Bake is delicious as it is. Cooked Perfect Meatballs are so tender and the cheese is so gooey, it’s definitely a weeknight dinner hero.
I mean, tell me that photo doesn’t make your mouth water.
Speaking of mouthwatering photos, make sure you take one of your Enchilada Meatball Pasta Bake before you chow down. Post it on Instagram with the tag #hostthetoast and it will show up on the You Made It page! Can’t wait to see yours.
- 1 (20 ounce) bag frozen Cooked Perfect Angus Beef Meatballs
- 1 (28 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
- 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 (15 ounce) can of tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon chile powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1(16 ounce) box rigatoni pasta
- 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 pound shredded cheese, divided (I used half cheddar and half Monterey Jack)
- 1 avocado, seeded and diced
- Chopped fresh cilantro, to top
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 3-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix together the enchilada sauce, evaporated milk, tomato sauce, and spices.
- Mix the penne and Cooked Perfect Angus Beef Meatballs in the baking dish. Pour the sauce overtop and mix to coat. Add in the black beans and half of the cheese and toss once more to combine.
- Place the baking dish on top of a small baking sheet to catch any potential spillovers and cover the baking sheet with foil. Bake for 1 hour, or until pasta is tender.
- Top with remaining cheese and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted.
- Top with avocado and cilantro, and serve warm.
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