Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Vegetarian Pasta Bake! This one pot dish is NO BOIL! Just throw everything into a casserole dish and bake! Pasta, tomato butter sauce, cheese, and meatless Italian sausage are all you need.
Pasta is my love language. Especially when covered in a silky tomato sauce and lots of cheese. It’s the one food that I almost always crave; the perfect combo of comfort, easy and absolute deliciousness.
It also seems like most of you love pasta as much as I do, considering that some of the top-rated recipes include my pasta fagioli recipe, arrabbiata sauce recipe, tuscan kale soup recipe, and my lemon chickpea orzo soup.
Even though it’s my dad who is Italian, it’s my Danish mother who has the same affinity towards pasta as I do. It’s my mom who creates some of my favorite pasta recipes and my mom who I call whenever I’ve got a recipe question. She might not have Italian blood, but that woman knows her way around the cucina.
Growing up, her signature dish was baked vegetable ziti. A dish I’ve made hundreds of times and have used to celebrate new life, mourn death, and feed many hungry, broken hearts. This pasta bake is my go-to freezer meal for new moms and it’s also the dish that I almost always have ready to go in my freezer whenever we need a ready-made dinner.
I love baked ziti but I don’t like the prep. Between slow-roasting the vegetables, making the homemade sauce, seasoning the ricotta and cooking the pasta it’s at least an hour process.
So when I saw this technique from Pinch of Yum, I knew I had to adapt that pasta bake to fit my needs. Very little prep and you don’t have to cook the pasta ahead of time? Sold.
I had visions of making lots of changes; doing a butter-free sauce, using vegan sausage and increasing the vegetables for this vegetarian pasta bake. But all of that ended up being more work- the exact opposite of what I intended. After all, I already own the world’s best baked ziti recipe; I needed something that could be put together for a weeknight and be just as delicious.
Therefore, I ended up keeping things mostly the same for this version of the vegetarian pasta bake. I lightened up the sauce, kept the vegan sausage and used baby spinach for extra greens. The result is a cheesy, creamy pasta dish that’s perfect for any just about any kind of gathering.
You can swap in almost any leafy green for the spinach, or you can leave it out entirely. You can also use a different cut of noodle– elbow, rigatoni, and the link will work.
I highly recommend the fire-roasted tomatoes as I feel like it gives this pasta bake plenty of flavor, but you can also use a favorite jarred marinara sauce. Rao’s and Vero Gusto are my favorites, but any will work! I grab Rao’s at Costco where it’s almost half the price of the grocery store.
I can’t even explain to you how easy this veggie pasta bake is. If you want to make it truly one pot, then you can even mix everything together in the casserole dish. This one is for lasagna lovers who don’t have time to make lasagna!
Turn oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, tomatoes, milk, melted butter, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, red pepper, salt and sausage.
Transfer to a 9×13 inch casserole baking dish, then cover tightly with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes, until penne is al dente.
Remove the foil, stir, add in the spinach and stir again. Top with cheese and place back in the oven under the broiler. Let brown for 3-5 minutes, then remove from thee oven and let stand for a few minutes so the sauce can thicken.
It’s really that easy! The ultimate comfort food with just 5 minutes of prep time. Fantastic for weeknight meals.
This vegetarian pasta bake makes for a great freezer meal; so much so that I’ve rounded up this recipe plus 19 others in my Vegetarian Freezer Recipes for New Moms post.
There are a few ways that you can freeze this, but I recommend assembling the casserole and then wrapping tightly in both plastic wrap and aluminum foil before placing in the freezer for 3-4 months. To bake, cook right from frozen, extending baking time 25-35 minutes, until penne is al dente. No thawing required!
This pasta bake will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It’s great the day of and the day after, but the pasta does become mushy the longer it sits in the fridge.
No! Not in this pasta bake recipe. Add the uncooked noodles along with the rest of the ingredients, and then bake as directed.
When using uncooked noodles, the pasta bake must be covered. This allows the dish to steam as it cooks and retain enough moisture to ensure that all of the noodles become tender.
Yes, you can use store-bought pasta sauce. You will need the equivalent of 28 ounces of sauce to make this recipe.
Make sure you are stirring all of the ingredients together before baking and covering the dish tightly with foil. If the dish is not covered, it will not steam properly and your pasta will dry out.
To reheat, add a small amount of pasta sauce (or even broth or water) to the bake before recovering and warming in the oven. Depending on how much of the baked ziti is left, I usually add a tablespoon or two of water per 1-2 cups of leftover pasta. Then cover and reheat in the oven at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. The additional liquid will help the pasta not dry out, but don’t use too much or the pasta will become soggy. You can also add in extra cheese on top to help with moisture.
Hope you love this one as much as we do! If you make it, make sure to come back to rate it and leave a comment. Your feedback helps other readers and seeing you make my recipes makes my day!Print
Vegetarian Pasta Bake! This one pot dish is NO BOIL! Just throw everything into a casserole dish and bake! Pasta, tomato butter sauce, cheese, vegan Italian sausage.
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(30 comments) leave a comment
This is so simple and delicious! I made and froze this as part of my meal prep for the birth of our newest baby. It froze and cooked perfectly, and we couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. I’ve made this meal for others and have gotten rave reviews. Thank you!
My sister made this as part of a few freezer meals she made for us when I had my baby. It was sooo good! I was sad when it was gone! She used Beyond Meat sausages because I like them best. I would say it took WAY longer to cook from frozen… like double the time.
SO glad to hear and noted on the cook time. Will update it now!
If freezing, do you still put the spinach in?
Any suggestions for bake time and/or ingredients change if use gluten free penne? Tried with current directions and the penne didn’t all cook evenly. Otherwise, flavors were delicious!
Whats the bake time for your gluten-free pasta? Gluten-free sometimes turns gummy when cooked too long– how was the liquid?
Cook time is 12 minutes. I ended up adding a little more milk since by the end it seemed like the liquid was soaked up
This pasta was delicious and SO easy. I love a meal I can make ahead of time and pop it in the oven when I get home from work and dinner is DONE! It will be in our dinner rotation for a while!
So glad to hear!
Hi! I would love to make this a freezer meal… if you’ve already included freezer directions, I’m terribly sorry but I’ve missed them. Would you recommend baking before freezing?
Hi Tasha– you don’t have to cook it before freezing. Prep as directed, then wrap well and place in the freezer. When ready to eat, bake from frozen and add ~15-20 minutes onto the baking time until warmed through.
Just cooked this and loved it. I accidentally left out the sausages and would do that again in the future because this makes a great side to a lot of things, like plant-based schnitzels. I’m also trying to lose weight by meal prepping, and this freezes well.
A recipe that really delivers what it says! So simple and fun to do and delicious. Made enough to eat one and freeze five portions, so will have to see how that turns out. Only thing I added was a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast for a bit more cheesey flavour – otherwise kept to recipe. This is a winner!
Love hearing that, thanks Lesley!
This was a big hit in my house last night, everybody loved it! Thank you!
I used frozen spinach as I didn’t have fresh which I cooked first but apart from that I followed the recipe exactly and it’s delicious.
I just have one question – could I cut down on the butter next time or would it spoil the end result?
So glad to hear, thanks Louise! Yes, you could cut down on the butter– I think it will still be OK, just not as rich.
Great, thanks! I’ll try it but if it’s not as delish I will revert to the proper amount.
Just made this recipe today when we had no meat in the house and running low on ingredients. Very flavorful and delicious with simple ingredients! Served with broccoli and breadsticks. Thank you. (:
This has become one of my pandemic go-to recipes! I love it so much because it’s so easy and the whole family loves it. Tonight I added a can of white beans which was great. I am thinking about trying it with gnocchi, I would think it would still cook through – we’ll see!