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Chicken Meatball and Penne Pasta Bake

Nathan Congleton
Cook Time:
40 mins
Prep Time:
40 mins

Chef notes

I love this recipe because you can make it completely in advance and then pop it in the oven at dinner time. It also freezes really well! 


Technique Tip: I learned from Joy Bauer that it's so easy to substitute pumpkin for breadcrumbs in meatballs or meatloaf, etc.  I love it! You can’t taste the difference and you get so many extra vitamins and fiber.


Swap option: If you have a few boxes of pasta that just have a little bit left, you can mix the different shapes.  It’s a great way to use up anything extra that you have lying around. 


  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, grated
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 16-ounce box mezzi rigatoni or mezze penne
  • One 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 2 cups mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving


For the meatballs:


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.


Mix together the chicken, pumpkin, Parmesan, onion, parsley, salt, pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes. 


 Shape the mixture into balls (about the size of a golfball) using a tablespoon and place on the prepared baking sheet.


Bake until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and spray a 9-inch by 3-inch baking dish with cooking spray. 

For the casserole: 


 Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Add the pasta and cook 3 minutes less than the package instructions. 


Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water and drain.


Toss the pasta with the marinara sauce and pasta water in a large bowl. Transfer to the greased baking dish. Nestle the meatballs into the pasta. 


Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve the dish with grated Parmesan.