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 my top posts include my pasta fagioli recipe, tuscan kale soup recipe, and my lemon chickpea orzo soup.
Even though it’s my dad who is Italian, my Danish mother 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 a hungry, broken hearts. It’s the dish that I almost always have ready to go in my freezer whenever anyone needs some nourishment or 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 it 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.
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!
Preheat 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″ 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 the 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 15-20 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.
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.