I wanted to combine Italian sausages, turn them into bite-sized meatballs and bake them in a rich tomato sauce with the tortellini because this kind of pasta dish is my absolute heaven. It’s a whole lot quicker and easier than making lasagne and delivers a similar result. This is winter comfort food at its best.

tortellini & italian sausage meatball bake with spinachI used a delicious Sicilian sausage from Giovanni’s which I love. You may have seen my recipe with these sausages and the best ever warm lentil salad a while back. To make these meatballs, you simply remove the meat from the casing and pan-fry them off to a golden brown. A lot of the fat gets rendered off which is also good. No other spice is required, apart from salt and pepper and a pinch of chilli if you want some heat. A large part of the success of this dish is based on the taste of the sausages so you really want to use good quality, flavour-packed ones here. I love the Sicilian because of the fennel flavour profile.

tortellini & italian sausage meatball bake with spinach

I made a batch of Marcella Hazan’s famous tomato sauce. I literally cannot get over how awesome and easy this is to make. It takes about 2 minutes to decant the two tins into the pot with the halved onion and butter. I’ve found I use a little less than her recipe of 70gms of butter, and find around 50gms is good too. Let that cook-off slowly for 20 minutes then get about making the rest.

Sadly fresh tortellini isn’t readily available in Cape Town, so one has to really hunt them down and store in the freezer, but I used a dried Italian brand this time and it was delicious. I went for the cheese-filled one but failing that, spinach and ricotta would have been my choice. This was also available at Giovanni’s – my favourite food shop in Cape Town. 

tortellini & italian sausage meatball bake with spinach

So you have your sauce simmering away becoming delicious all on its own, then you boil the pasta for about 16 minutes or according to the packet instructions (fresh would be shorter), and you pan fry the meatballs. Everything gets put in the oven covered with Parmesan and fresh mozzarella to bake for about 20 minutes and until bubbling and golden.

tortellini & italian sausage meatball bake with spinach

tortellini & italian sausage meatball bake with spinach

To make this dish vegetarian, simply leave out the meatballs and add more spinach.

Recipe serves 2 – 3 people (or 4 less hungry ones)


tortellini & italian sausage meatball bake with spinach

A delicious dish of Italian sausage meatballs baked with tortellini and smothered in tomato sauce with cheese.

  • Author: Sam Linsell


Tomato sauce:

2 tins of Italian whole peeled tomatoes

1 large white onion, halved

4060gms butter – depending on how many calories you are willing to sacrifice

a good few pinches of good quality sea salt flakes such as Maldon

Black pepper

Meatball pasta part

250 gms tortellini (either cheese or spinach)

40045 gms of Italian sausages, removed from casings and rolled into small meatballs.

34 cups baby spinach leaves

pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

1 x ball of mozzarella

Parmesan to grate


Get the sauce on the go and allow that to cook for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350 F

Make your meatballs and fry these in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat until golden on all sides. They don’t have to be cooked through. Remove from pan and drain if you want to take off any fat. 

Get your water to the boil and cook the tortellini according to the packet instructions.

Once the tomato sauce has been cooking for about 40 minutes, add the meatballs, chilli flakes to the sauce and allow to bubble for about 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Fold through the spinach until it is all wilted. Add the pasta and stir gently to combine. 

Decant into a buttered ovenproof dish and grate over Parmesan cheese (as much as you would like). Tear or slice the mozzarella into pieces to cover the surface. Bake for 20 minutes until starting to go golden and the cheese is bubbling. Serve with more Parmesan on the side. 

Keywords: Tortellini, Italian sausage meatballs, bake

A few of my other favourite pasta dishes:

spinach & ricotta cannelloni bake

spaghetti meatballs

pasta with broccoli, anchovies and garlic

Creamy chicken with ravioli & spinach

Meatball and spinach ravioli bake

 Spaghetti and meatballs

Chicken meatballs with spaghetti

Tortellini with Italian sausage meatball bake

Meatball and spinach ravioli bake

My best pasta recipes




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  1. Sounds delicious esp at this time of the year. Your recipe doesn’t say when do you add the tortellini?

  2. Sam

    Thanks Nina, I had explained it earlier in the post but forgot to add into the method. I have updated the recipe now.

  3. kellycletheroe

    Positively drool-worthy as always. A tortellini bake is such a good idea, especially with the added cheat’s meatballs! 🙂

  4. Ah, these photos are giving me all the comfort food feels! Enduring a particularly cold winter here in Australia and I feel like I’m stuffing my face non-stop with pasta – not that I’m complaining and – this one seems perfect for an upcoming weeknight dinner! Gorgeous photos 🙂

  5. Sam

    Thanks James and things are also pretty chilly here in Cape Town and I’m eating all the pasta too.

  6. Tracey O'Neill

    Hi Sam, I have just made this for dinner and it was very tasty. Thanks for your inspiration. I managed to find tortellini at The Italian Deli at Northlands Deco Park (off Witkoppen Road, Jhb). The have both fresh and dried. I used the dried and the dish was delicious. Enjoy the rest of the weekend?. Thanks again.

  7. Sam

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it Tracey and thanks for letting me know. Sam 🙂

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