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If you can boil water, then you can make this easy Baked Penne! The simple vegetarian casserole has layers of pasta, sauce and three different cheeses for a satisfying make-ahead dinner that the whole family will love.

Overhead image of a plate of vegetarian baked penne pasta

The Best Baked Penne Recipe

Baked Penne Pasta with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses tastes like baked ziti or lasagna — with minimal prep work. It is a simple and hearty Italian vegetarian casserole that’s made by layering penne pasta (a cylinder-shaped pasta with ends cut at an angle) with marinara sauce and a smooth, creamy ricotta cheese mixture. Add some mozzarella and Parmesan for even more gooey, cheesy goodness and you’ve got a quick dinner that your kids will devour!

Overhead shot of a white casserole dish full of baked penne with fresh parsley on top

How to make Baked Penne Pasta with Mozzarella:

There’s nothing difficult about this affordable, family-friendly meal. If you can boil the pasta, then you can assemble this easy dish. Let’s get started…

Ingredients for Penne Pasta with Cheese and Tomato Sauce:

  • Penne pasta
  • Marinara sauce
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Eggs
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Basil
  • Salt, garlic powder and black pepper
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

Step 1: Boil the Pasta and Combine with Marinara Sauce

First, boil the pasta until almost al dente, then drain and combine with a jar of marinara sauce.

Penne pasta and marinara sauce in a pot

Step 2: Stir together Ricotta Mixture

In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil, salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Ricotta cheese mixture for baked penne casserole

Step 3: Layer Casserole in Dish

Assemble the casserole by spreading half of the pasta mixture in the bottom of a large dish.

Process shot of assembling baked penne pasta in white dish

Spread the ricotta evenly over the pasta.

Adding ricotta to baked penne

Finish with another layer of the remaining penne, and a sprinkling of mozzarella on top.

Penne pasta in a white dish before baking in the oven

Step 4: Bake Casserole

Bake the casserole (uncovered) in a 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with fresh parsley just before serving, if you like.

Diagonal overhead image of baked penne pasta in a white dish

What to serve with Baked Penne Pasta with Ricotta:

This Italian-inspired casserole goes well with any of these easy sides:

Front shot of baked penne on a blue and white plate

Preparation and Storage Tips:

  • Prep Ahead: You can make the baked penne recipe up to one day ahead of time! Assemble the casserole as instructed, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Before baking, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature (for about 30 minutes to 1 hour).
  • How to Freeze Baked Penne: Baked penne can be frozen either before or after baking. The quality is best if you assemble the casserole in advance and freeze before baking. Wrapped tightly, the baked penne will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just make sure that you allow the dish to cool completely before wrapping and freezing.
  • Leftover baked penne will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • How to Reheat Baked Penne: To reheat the baked penne directly from the freezer, cover with foil and warm in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour. Remove the cover and continue baking for about 10 more minutes. If you’re reheating a thawed baked penne, you can reduce the baking time to about 20-25 minutes (covered).

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • Baked Penne Pasta with Ground Beef, Chicken or Sausage: It’s very easy to add meat to this casserole if that’s your family’s preference. Brown and drain 1 lb. of sausage or ground beef and add the cooked meat to the pasta and marinara sauce before layering in the dish. You can also layer cooked, diced chicken in the dish (use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut).
  • Add veggies! Amp up the nutrition and flavor profile by layering your favorite vegetables in the casserole. Try sauteed mushrooms, onions or bell peppers, for example. Cooked zucchini, boiled and diced eggplant, or boiled asparagus would all be nice additions as well.
  • If you don’t have penne pasta, you can substitute with another similar short pasta shape, such as rotini, ziti or rigatoni.
  • Don’t boil the pasta until it’s completely tender. You want it to have a little “bite” when you add it to the dish. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want to end up with mushy, overcooked noodles. Instead, remove the penne from the boiling water just before it’s al dente (about 1-2 minutes less than called for on the box).
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish. Alternatively, you can prepare the full recipe, but divide the ingredients between two 8-inch square dishes. Bake one for now, and freeze the other for later!
Close overhead shot of a baked penne casserole in a white dish

More penne pasta recipes that you might enjoy:

Overhead image of a plate of vegetarian baked penne pasta

Baked Penne

5 from 6 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 415.9 kcal
If you can boil water, then you can make this easy Baked Penne! It's a simple vegetarian casserole with layers of pasta, sauce and three different cheeses.

Ingredients
  

  • 16 oz box penne pasta
  • 1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups (6 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water just until al dente, about 9 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Stir in marinara sauce and toss to coat.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, eggs and Parmesan cheese. Add basil, salt, garlic powder and pepper; stir to combine.
  • Layer half of the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the pasta. Spoon the remaining pasta over the ricotta. Sprinkle mozzarella on top.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes (or until hot and bubbly).

Notes

  • Baked Penne Pasta with Ground Beef, Chicken or Sausage: It’s very easy to add meat to this casserole if that’s your family’s preference. Brown and drain 1 lb. of sausage or ground beef and add the cooked meat to the pasta and marinara sauce before layering in the dish. You can also layer cooked, diced chicken in the dish (use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut).
  • Add veggies! Amp up the nutrition and flavor profile by layering your favorite vegetables in the casserole. Try sauteed mushrooms, onions or bell peppers, for example. Cooked zucchini, boiled and diced eggplant, or boiled asparagus would all be nice additions as well.
  • If you don’t have penne pasta, you can substitute with another similar short pasta shape, such as rotini, ziti or rigatoni.
  • Don’t boil the pasta until it’s completely tender. You want it to have a little “bite” when you add it to the dish because it will continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want to end up with mushy, overcooked noodles. Instead, remove the penne from the boiling water just before it’s al dente (about 1-2 minutes less than called for on the box).
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish. Alternatively, you can prepare the full recipe, but divide the ingredients between two 8-inch square dishes. Bake one for now, and freeze the other for later!

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casseroleCalories: 415.9kcalCarbohydrates: 51.8gProtein: 22.3gFat: 13.9gSaturated Fat: 6.7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.9gCholesterol: 77.8mgSodium: 730.6mgPotassium: 104.9mgFiber: 3.9gSugar: 5.8g
Keyword: baked penne pasta recipe, baked penne recipe, vegetarian casserole
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We just may have to try this tonight! My boys don’t usually like everything mixed together, but I’m sure if I told John Henry it’s Blair’s recipe, he’ll gobble it up! 😉

    1. Aw, sweet boy! I can’t wait until we can have him back over to our house for a visit — I’ll feed him! 🙂 Hope your boys approve! xoxo

  2. Great timing on posting this recipe as I have some ricotta that I need to use up, as well as having all the other ingredients on hand. Sounds yummy and easy too. Thanks for answering the question of “what’s for dinner” tonight.

  3. 5 stars
    FABULOUS…THIS IS AN AMAZING AND MORE EASY TO MAKE RECIPE….Blair…AND IT LOOKS SOO YUMMY & MORE CHEESY…I WILL TRYING TO MAKE IT…THANKS FOR SHARING…..!

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious! Had what I needed to make for Saturday supper, I wanted a trial run before making it on a weekend. It’s just great and very easy to make. I chopped a cup of baby spinach to add to the cheese and fried up some ground turkey to add to the pasta as we have a meat lover. I would prefer no meat myself but….next time I might divide in two as only three of us but my son loves leftovers to take to work and heat up…or he just eats for BREAKFAST!!
    it’s a good vegetarian dish simply as you wrote it.
    Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    Yes this recipe was a hit! I added some shredded chicken to it and even served it on the exact same plates as the picture – I have the same set!

  6. 5 stars
    Simple delicious and so easy to make. I did use a 12oz box of penne pasta vs 16oz which was plenty for my family with leftovers. Definitely will make again.

  7. 5 stars
    I tried this for dinner. When I described what I was making my hubby turned up his nose at it, but when he tried it he loved it and said this is really good! Don’t get too many excited thumbs up from him for trying new recipes. This was the perfect easy recipe for a sloppy snowy January day!