Beefy Cheese Tortellini Bake is loaded with tortellini, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese for an effortless pasta dinner that the whole family will love!
Does anyone else ever get stuck in a dinner rut? As a food blogger, you may think that's a problem I would never encounter. After all, I'm working on recipes every week. I have a whole archive of family favorites. And as part of my job, I spend an inordinate amount of time pinning recipes on Pinterest (incidentally, have I mentioned how much I love my job?). 😉
Nevertheless, despite being immersed in all of this great recipe inspiration, sometimes I flat-out don't know what to make for dinner. And on those occasions, I open the freezer, stare inside, and hope that something speaks to me.
This exact scenario played out a few weeks ago and, frantically flagging me down on the freezer shelf from between a bag of peas and a box of chicken breasts, was a package of cheese tortellini. And it was squawking, "Turn me into something good!" Okay, so maybe it didn't exactly happen that way.
Maybe I'm slightly hallucinogenic due to a combo of allergy meds and sleep deprivation (because three kids and, you know, LIFE).
Maybe the frozen cheese tortellini was simply sitting there, as tortellini typically does, and I randomly had the bright idea to substitute it for noodles in a spaghetti-esque pasta bake.
So that's exactly what I did.
How to Make a Beefy Cheese Tortellini Bake
- Make a batch of spaghetti sauce using ground beef and your favorite jarred pasta sauce. Or you could certainly substitute homemade marinara if you happen to have some on hand.
- To up the vitamin intake, you can even get sneaky and add some finely grated zucchini (or other veggies) to the meat sauce using my favorite method for hiding veggies in a recipe. But shhhh...just don't tip off my kids (or my hubby) that I do this. 😉
- Toss in some cheese tortellini and a bit of freshly grated mozzarella.
- Pour everything into a baking dish. Top with more cheese and pop in the oven until hot and bubbly!
A Few Notes About the Tortellini
Dinner doesn't get much more effortless than pasta + sauce!
But actually it does, because for this recipe, I didn't even have to dirty another pot by boiling the tortellini separately. I simply ran it under some warm water in a colander before adding it to the meat sauce and then everything cooked up all together in the oven.
If that's not the definition of easy peasy, I'm not sure what is. And as a bonus, the kids loved this. Pasta and cheese and beefy tomato sauce (and hidden veggies, to boot)...how can you go wrong?!
But what if the cheese tortellini that you have on hand isn't frozen? What if it's packaged (dry) or refrigerated instead?
- If your tortellini is in a package from the pasta aisle, boil it per the directions on the bag until al dente, and then proceed with this recipe as directed.
- If your tortellini is refrigerated, that's basically the same as frozen tortellini that's been thawed under warm running water (which is what this recipe calls for). So you shouldn't have to change anything at all!
Just because I try to cook plenty o' things from scratch doesn't mean that I don't keep a few all-natural pantry and freezer staples on hand for quick dinners when I'm otherwise lacking inspiration. And as a result, this Beefy Cheese Tortellini Bake is one of those perfect meals for when you're short on time and ingredients but you still want to throw together something that everyone will enjoy.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to hop on Pinterest and try to figure out what I'm making for dinner tomorrow...and the next day...and the next... 😉
More Pasta Favorites
Beefy Cheese Tortellini Bake
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara/pasta sauce
- 1 (22-ounce) package frozen cheese tortellini
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 3-quart baking dish and set aside.
- In a large pot set over medium heat, brown ground beef and garlic until meat is no longer pink, breaking it up and stirring frequently. Drain fat. Season meat with garlic powder, dried basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, dried thyme, crushed red pepper flakes (if desired), and salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- Stir pasta sauce into cooked ground beef. Pour frozen tortellini into a colander and run under warm water for a minute to slightly thaw. Drain and stir tortellini into meat sauce.
- Remove pot from heat and stir in half of the grated mozzarella. Transfer tortellini/meat sauce into the prepared baking dish. Top with remaining grated mozzarella and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for about 20 minutes more, or until hot and bubbly.
- If you have fresh herbs, feel free to substitute them for the dried herbs (and you may use three times the amount of fresh herbs, since fresh herbs aren't as potent as dried).
- If desired, you can add some grated veggies to the meat sauce using this method.
- You may substitute refrigerated cheese tortellini for (thawed) frozen tortellini without otherwise changing the recipe.
Post originally published on February 15, 2015.