Vegetarian Pasta Bake with No Cook Noodles

By Alexandra Caspero on February 18, 2021
One Pot Baked Ziti! A must-save, especially for weeknight meals, new mom's and easy dinners.
Serves 6-8

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.

Served pasta bake with some pasta on a fork

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.

Uncooked pasta in a creamy sauce in a casserole dish

Ingredients you’ll need to make a vegetarian pasta bake

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne pasta. Yes, uncooked! That’s the real beauty of this recipe, the noodles cook in the sauce in the oven so you don’t have to cook them first. (Mom, I know you wish you knew this trick beforehand. I’m sorry for the hours and hours that you spent cooking the pasta first before assembling your famous baked ziti!)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of crushed, fire roasted tomatoes. I adore fire roasted tomatoes and feel strongly that they add a lot of flavor to this dish. However, if you like things mild, then I’d recommend using regular crushed tomatoes. Diced will not work the same way. 
  • 2 cups milk. Any milk will work, as long as it’s unsweetened. 
  • 1/3 cup melted butter. Same thing here, for a vegan pasta bake then choose a dairy-free butter. There are plenty of options on the market these days, but I’m partial to Earth Balance and Miyoko’s
  • 3 cloves minced garlic. My trick for mincing garlic is using a microplane so that the garlic melts into the sauce.
  • Spices: 1 teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder, 2 teaspoons dried oregano and ¼-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Including crushed red pepper really depends on how spicy you like it. 
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt. Yes, I know it’s a lot, but I account for the salt that I’d use to season the pasta water if I was cooking it and then the salt I’d use in making the sauce. Also, this makes 6-8 servings, so you are dividing that salt by quite a few servings. All that said, if you want to reduce it then you can. I wouldn’t go below 3/4-1 teaspoon. 
  • 3 links (~9 ounces) sliced vegan Italian sausage. Field Roast is my favorite, but your favorite brand will do. 
  • 1 cup chopped spinach leaves. I think a leafy green works best here, but if you wanted to use a heartier veggie like chopped bell pepper, mushrooms or chopped zucchini, then I recommend adding them to the bake before placing in the oven. 
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese. I like the gooey coating of mozzarella cheese on top; a dairy-free cheese works along with parmesan cheese. For an extra cheesy topping, you can use both mozzarella and then a grating of parmesan cheese. 

Vegetarian Baked Ziti Instructions 

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. 

How to store

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. 

Melted cheese on top of the cooked pasta bake, ready to eat!

Print
Serving the pasta bake with a wooden spoon

Vegetarian Pasta Bake

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: pasta, penne, italian, dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian, Pasta
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

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.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: pasta, penne, italian, dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian, Pasta
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: pasta, penne, italian, dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian, Pasta
  • Diet: Vegetarian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces penne pasta, uncooked
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups milk (*see notes)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted (*see notes)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 3 links (~9 ounces) vegan Italian sausage, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. 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. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes until penne is al dente.
  3. Remove the foil (be careful, it’s hot!), 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.

Notes

  • To make this vegan, use an unsweetened non-dairy milk and vegan butter, like Miyokos or Earth Balance. Omit the cheese or use a non-dairy cheese instead.

did you make this?

Tag @delishknowledge on Instagram and hashtag it #delishknowledge

This recipe was first posted in 2019 and updated in 2022. 

 

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.

(24 comments) leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    1. Olivia
      July 5, 2022 AT 5:48 pm

      If freezing, do you still put the spinach in?

      1. Alex
        July 6, 2022 AT 6:54 am

        Yes

    2. Brooke
      January 25, 2022 AT 11:37 am

      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!

      1. Alex
        January 25, 2022 AT 5:16 pm

        So glad to hear!

    3. Tasha Richardson
      November 28, 2021 AT 8:47 pm

      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?

      1. Alex
        November 29, 2021 AT 10:40 am

        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.

    4. Alice
      June 26, 2021 AT 6:14 pm

      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.

    5. Lesley Desborough
      January 13, 2021 AT 8:22 am

      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!

      1. Alex
        January 13, 2021 AT 8:30 am

        Love hearing that, thanks Lesley!

    6. Louise
      December 16, 2020 AT 11:48 pm

      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?

      1. Alex
        December 18, 2020 AT 8:03 am

        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.

        1. Louise
          December 22, 2020 AT 11:39 am

          Great, thanks! I’ll try it but if it’s not as delish I will revert to the proper amount.

    7. Arianna
      October 17, 2020 AT 5:11 pm

      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. (:

    8. Sara
      September 14, 2020 AT 10:17 pm

      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!

    9. Sara
      May 29, 2020 AT 9:41 pm

      I’ve made this twice now with slight variations and it’s so easy and delicious! I added some homemade ricotta for extra deliciousness. My toddler even ate it! And there’s plenty of leftovers to get us through another couple of meals.

    10. Veronica
      March 6, 2020 AT 3:37 pm

      Made this today in BC, Canada and it turned out so well! Thank you for the great recipe

      1. Alex
        March 9, 2020 AT 5:46 pm

        So glad you liked it!