This Is One of the Easiest Dinners I Make, and All Three of My Kids Eat It

published Jul 26, 2023
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Casserole dish with Dump and Bake Meatloaf Casserole (meatballs, macaroni, red sauce)
Credit: Alicia Betz

In my former life before I became a mom, I spent a lot of time baking and cooking. On any given day, you could find me making Cheez-Its from scratch or trying out a new cookie recipe just because I felt like it. These days, with three young kids, I don’t have much time to cook a simple dinner for my family — let alone try out a new dessert recipe. In this phase of my life, it’s all about what I can cook simply and quickly. 

So when I saw this dump-and-bake meatball casserole dinner recipe featured on the Feeding Littles Instagram, I knew I had to try it. 

Why I Like This Meal

The meal is kind of like a poor man’s (or, in my case, busy mom’s) lasagna, and there are a few things that make it a fan favorite around here. 

From my perspective as a busy mom, it’s easy: There are only five ingredients (one of which is water), and it’s relatively inexpensive. I love a pasta recipe that doesn’t require me to boil a pot of water on the stove — especially in the summer. This means less prep and less cleanup. For this one, you simply add the dry pasta to the baking dish along with the other ingredients. That’s really all there is to it. Once it’s cooked, stir, sprinkle some cheese on top, and let it cook a few minutes longer. 

I also like this recipe because we typically have all of the ingredients on hand (pasta, water, frozen meatballs, cheese, and pasta sauce), so I can whip it up when I have no dinner plans. Because it’s easy, inexpensive, and a crowd favorite, I like to make it to drop off for friends and family who have a new baby or have experienced a loss in the family. 

While it’s certainly not the most nutritious meal I make, it has a decent amount of iron, which is important for babies and young kids. It’s also easy to customize with different types of pasta (try chickpea pasta), protein (try chicken strips), and sauce (try Alfredo sauce). You could also leave out the cheese if you want.

Get the recipe: Dump-and-Bake Meatball Casserole from The Seasoned Mom

Why My Kids Like This Meal

From my kids’ perspective (ages 5, 1, and 1), this meal is tasty and simple, and includes familiar ingredients. My 5-year-old enjoys helping in the kitchen, and this meal is so easy to make that she can do it herself with little help. I’ve found that whenever she helps prep a meal, she’s always more likely to eat the food when it’s done. 

Now that my 1-year-old twins are officially toddlers, they have gotten a bit picker compared to when they were babies. Some meals go flying across the room, and some are simply met with a vehement “no!” The dump-and-bake meatball casserole, however, is always gobbled up. 

Give This Easy Meal a Try on a Busy Weeknight 

It doesn’t get much easier than this meal, so give it a try next time you’re scrambling for something to make for dinner. When I make it, I usually throw together some emergency garlic bread with hamburger buns or hot dog buns. To make them really delicious, try swapping out garlic powder for garlic salt and add a bit of grated Parmesan cheese.

Honestly, it’s hard to tell which my family likes better: the meatball casserole or the garlic bread. 

Get the recipe: Dump-and-Bake Meatball Casserole from The Seasoned Mom