Jump to RecipeJump to VideoLeave a ReviewPin Recipe

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.

I think that I managed to pack all of the season’s best veggies and herbs into one cheesy casserole! This dump-and-bake summer pasta is loaded with zucchini, corn, tomatoes, fresh basil, and tender chicken. You don’t even have to boil the pasta for this fresh, healthy, and easy dinner! Just stir the ingredients together in one dish and pop it in the oven!

Overhead shot of summer pasta in a white baking dish

Healthy Summer Recipes are So Easy!

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that I’ve totally given up on cozy comfort food! I’ve only shifted gears a little bit and turned our cool weather favorites into more seasonally appropriate dishes — like this summer pasta! Because you can only eat so many salads…

But wait! Before you run off and assume that this is a heavy, calorie-laden meal that won’t jive with your bathing suit goals, hear me out! I’ve lightened up the dish with loads of fresh vegetables, lean protein, and a broth-based sauce for a dump-and-run healthy summer recipe that has less than 300 calories per serving.

Getting Kids To Eat Their Veggies

Over the past 13 years, I have found that the best way to encourage all of my boys to eat their veggies is to add the nutritious stuff to familiar meals that the kids already know and love. I’m not “disguising” or “hiding” the vegetables, but instead making them more palatable and mild by combining them with the flavors and textures that the boys enjoy.

So when you’re faced with a garden full of zucchini, fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market, or leftover grilled chicken from your recent cookout, there’s no need to force-feed a grilled chicken salad to your toddler!

Instead, you can bake a fresh and light summer pasta with zucchini for an easy dinner that comes together in a matter of minutes (and it just happens to include zucchini). This is about as easy as cooking gets, since you don’t even have to boil the pasta!

An overhead shot of summer pasta with zucchini in a white baking dish

Summer Pasta Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need for a healthy dump-and-bake summer pasta recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Chicken: you’ll need cooked, shredded or diced chicken for this dish. To keep the meal quick and easy, I recommend using the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, leftovers from a previous meal, or pre-cooked chicken from the store (such as Perdue Shortcuts). Of course, you can boil your own chicken at home to use in this recipe — it just won’t be a “dump-and-bake” dinner! If cooking your own chicken at home, you’ll need about 1 pound of raw, boneless skinless chicken breasts or boneless skinless chicken thighs to equal about 2 cups of cooked, chopped meat.
  • Tomatoes: I use halved grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes because they’re nice and sweet, but any good summer tomatoes will work.
  • Zucchini: no need to peel the veggie first — just dice it up and toss it into the dish.
  • Corn: use fresh corn cut off the cob if it’s available, or substitute with frozen corn or canned corn when necessary.
  • Penne pasta: just the uncooked pasta, since the noodles will bake in the sauce in the pan while it’s in the oven. If you’re using a different shape pasta, you may need to adjust to the total baking time.
  • Chicken broth: I start with low-sodium broth so that you can control the salt in your dish, but any variety will work. It looks like a lot of liquid, but the pasta will absorb a good amount of the broth as it cooks in the oven.
  • Mozzarella cheese: the mozzarella pairs nicely with the tomatoes and basil, but you can substitute with any variety of grated cheese that you like. Cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack, Colby, Colby Jack, Gruyere, or Pepper Jack will all work. I also like a package of Italian 5 Cheese blend for extra flavor, or some extra crumbled feta to go well with the tomatoes.
  • Basil: a delicious summer herb that pairs beautifully with the tomatoes and zucchini, giving this pasta dish great Italian flavor.
  • Garlic: you’ll need about 2 cloves of garlic to equal 2 teaspoons minced.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.

How to Make Summer Pasta

This quick dump-and-bake summer pasta is a healthy meal that takes advantage of the season’s best produce. You’ll love that you can stir it together quickly (no need to boil the pasta in a pot first!) and then get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather!

  1. Stir together all of the ingredients, reserving ½ cup of cheese and half of the basil.
  2. Transfer the pasta mixture to a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
  3. Cover the dish tightly with foil.
  4. Bake the casserole in a 425°F oven for about 40 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.
  5. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and return to the oven for 5-10 more minutes. The casserole is done when the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted on top.
  6. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with remaining basil, additional fresh herbs, or Parmesan cheese, if desired.
A side shot of summer pasta with zucchini in a casserole dish with a serving spoon

What to Serve with Summer Pasta

While you don’t necessarily need anything else alongside this hearty casserole, here are some sides that pair well with the summer pasta:

A close up shot of summer pasta with zucchini in a white casserole dish

Storage

This pasta is best when enjoyed warm from the oven. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. It’s important to note, however, that the pasta and vegetables may have a mushy texture when thawed. Freezing is not ideal.

How to Reheat

Warm individual portions of leftovers in the microwave for about 1 minute. To reheat a larger casserole, cover the dish with foil and warm in a 325°F oven just until heated through.

Recipe Variations

  • This pasta is great for using up any leftover veggies that you might have on hand. Feel free to add broccoli florets, green beans, red peppers, chopped asparagus, peas, yellow summer squash, and more.
  • Add different herbs and spices such as parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or chives.
  • Stir pesto into the pasta mixture for even more classic summer flavor.
  • Don’t have chicken? You can omit the meat altogether for a vegetarian dish (use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth), or substitute with cooked bacon, Italian sausage, turkey, or ground beef.

Tips for the Best Summer Pasta Recipe

  • Total cooking time will vary depending on the type of pan that you use and your individual oven. Glass or ceramic baking dishes will take longer than metal pans, for instance. To know when your casserole is done, taste a bite of the pasta. The noodles should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed. You might still have some broth in the pan — that’s fine.
  • Be careful not to overbake the casserole or the pasta will become mushy.
  • Garnish the casserole with fresh herbs like the reserved basil, or parsley or thyme for a bright, fresh touch. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese or crushed red pepper flakes is also delicious!
  • If you’re cooking for a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
  • Use a low-sodium broth so that you can control the salt in your dish.
Summer pasta with zucchini, tomatoes and corn in a white casserole dish in front of a window

More Summer Pasta Recipes to Try

Square overhead featured image of a dish of summer pasta

Dump and Bake Summer Pasta

4.24 from 21 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour
Servings 6 – 8 servings
Calories 278 kcal
This dump-and-bake summer pasta with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and chicken is a quick, light, and easy dinner that your family will love.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes (can substitute with a can of undrained diced tomatoes)
  • 1 small zucchini (about 1 cup), diced
  • ½ cup corn kernels (fresh, canned, or frozen is fine)
  • 12 ounces (about 3 cups) uncooked penne pasta
  • 3 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ½ cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional garnish: additional chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or thyme; grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In the prepared dish (or in a separate bowl), stir together cooked chicken, tomatoes, zucchini, corn, uncooked pasta, chicken broth, 1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese, about half of the basil leaves, minced garlic, and salt.
  • Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Uncover; stir. At this point you should check the pasta to make sure that it is al dente (firm but just about finished cooking). If it’s still too hard, cover the dish and return to the oven until pasta is al dente. Then move on to the next step.
  • Sprinkle remaining ½ cup of mozzarella over the top. Bake uncovered for 5-10 more minutes (or until cheese is melted and pasta is tender).
  • Garnish with remaining basil leaves, additional herbs, or grated Parmesan cheese just before serving. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

Notes

  • Total cooking time will vary depending on the type of pan that you use and your individual oven. Glass or ceramic baking dishes will take longer than metal pans, for instance. To know when your casserole is done, taste a bite of the pasta. The noodles should be tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed. You might still have some broth in the pan — that’s fine.
  • Be careful not to overbake the casserole or the pasta will become mushy.
  • Garnish the casserole with fresh herbs like the reserved basil, or parsley or thyme for a bright, fresh touch. A sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese is also delicious!
  • If you’re cooking for a smaller family, cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish.
  • Use a low-sodium broth so that you can control the salt in your dish.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8th of the recipeCalories: 278kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 21gFat: 5.8gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 36mgSodium: 498mgFiber: 2.4gSugar: 2g
Keyword: healthy summer recipes, pasta with zucchini, summer pasta
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, 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

Square overhead shot of hands serving a chicken pot pie recipe with biscuits
Overhead image of a bowl of chili mac on a dinner table with cornbread
Hands serving a platter of sheet pan sausage and potatoes

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.

Comments

  1. 3 stars
    Just made this for dinner and it is a tasty dish. If I make it again, I will cook the pasta first. Some of the pasta was crunchy, even though there was quite a bit of broth left in the dish. I used a slotted spoon to dish it out.

    1. Hey, Lisa! It sounds like the dish needed to bake a bit longer. The pasta shouldn’t be crunchy at the end and there shouldn’t be too much broth in the dish. Hope that helps, and I’m glad that you otherwise enjoyed it. 🙂

      1. 5 stars
        This is one of our go to meals. It’s just tastes like summer, so fresh with produce right from the garden.

        Only suggestion would be to mix the dish 1/2 to 2/3 the way through. The problem is the pasta on top (not submerged) doesn’t get cooked and remains a little too firm. But if you don’t do this, just poke all the hard pasta deep down when you take it out to add the extra cheese and it should be good.

        Also, it may be a little brothy when you first take it out but that will soak in and evaporate if you take off the foil when it comes out to cool. Leftovers are even better!

  2. 2 stars
    The dish ends up very, very watery. The pasta really should be cooked separately and then combined. Or perhaps half the amount of chicken broth. So much liquid left over at the end.

  3. 5 stars
    Hey, thanks for this recipe! It has become a regular party of my rotation, good through the whole year!

    Just wondering if I could freeze leftovers? Going to lose my oven to kitchen renovations soon and would love to pre-bake and store portions for microwaving in the coming few months!

    1. Hi, Natasha! I’m so glad that you like it! 🙂

      You can definitely freeze the leftovers — just beware that the texture of the dish may be slightly “off” after thawing. Just like any pasta casserole, the freezing and reheating process may make the pasta a bit mushy or gummy — not terrible — just not as good as when it’s straight out of the oven. Also, the frozen vegetables may be a bit mushier and release more liquid after thawing. Hope that helps!

      When we had our kitchen renovated years ago, I relied heavily on slow cooker dinners. I could plug my Crock Pot into an outlet in the laundry room and just prepare dinner that way. You could even prepare slow cooker freezer meals so that you can just stash the prepped dinners in your freezer and then cook them as needed. Here are a few links to freezer meal prep sessions that you might find helpful: https://www.theseasonedmom.com/?s=freezer

    1. Hi, Jenny! Yes! I’ve made many other similar dump-and-bake casseroles with raw chicken and it works fine. Just make sure that you dice the chicken into small enough pieces so that it’s cooked through by the time the pasta is done. 🙂

  4. WARNING!

    I used the Banza chickpea pasta and it turned out TERRIBLE! The pasta was all mushy and doughy. It ruined everything for me. I imagine I would really love this dish, and will probably try in the future, but for now a little scared. If you are looking into a gluten free pasta, look elsewhere.

    1. Hi, Katie! I’ve tried that chickpea pasta (not in this recipe) once before, and I thought it was pretty bad, too. 🙂

    1. Hey, Emily! It should still work without the cheese — it will just be missing that cheesy flavor and texture. 🙂 Enjoy!

  5. 4 stars
    My finnicky daughter really liked this meal! I would not call this “quick,” but it is definitely easy! I used canned chicken because I was too lazy to cook my own! 40 minutes is not enough to cook the pasta all the way, it needed 60 minutes, but that cooked it perfectly and there was no water left behind. I will be making this again, and using it as a meal to send to friends who need help (new parents and caregivers) with the ingredients for them to put it together themselves and feel like they are cooking! I’ve been on the receiving end of those kinds of meals and this would be perfect!

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve commented before but it was half query. I want to reiterate that this recipe is fantastic.
    A few people have mentioned the crunchy pasta on top… We’ve had this too because I overload on veggies. Our solution is to put the pasta and stock in the bottom of the dish, then dump everything else on top and squash it down (not everything will be fully submerged but it doesn’t matter since the chicken is cooked already). The pasta cooks through and then you just stir everything together before you too with the last cheese.
    This has made the dish SO versatile because I can just add as much extra veg I want, or use up the last of a bbq chook that’s a little too dry for lunches, no need to measure
    We like to add parmesan on top in the last stage as well for an extra flavour twist. Thank you Blair, some variety of this recipe is in heavy rotation year round!!

  7. 5 stars
    This was so good! I was worried after reading reviews but took the advice of layering the pasta and broth on the bottom and everything else on top. Cooked for the recommended time and it turned out great. I did use 2tbsp of basil from a squeeze tube vs fresh and also did tomato basil chicken sausages. Both were great subs!

  8. 5 stars
    We love this casserole! I have made it 3 times now and it has always turned out perfect. I followed the recipe just as written and I have not had any problem with it being too juicy as mentioned by another reviewer. The only thing I would recommend is stirring after 20 minutes of baking, which was also mentioned by someone else.

    1. I’m so happy to hear that, Diane! Thank you for taking the time to come back here and leave a note. I appreciate it!

  9. 5 stars
    Hi Blair, fabulous recipe – easy and tasty. I can see it being done often in our house. I was wondering about a crock-pot version. Any suggestion for cooking time if it was done dump and bake in the crock pot? Thanks, Ali.

    1. Hi, Ali! I think it would work in the slow cooker, but I haven’t tested it to be able to give you a specific cooking time. I always worry about pasta in the Crock Pot, since it can easily become overcooked, gummy, and mushy if you’re not watching it closely to turn off the pot when it’s al dente. A quick Google search suggested about 1 hour on high for penne pasta, but again — that will vary depending on your individual slow cooker and its temperature. Hope that helps!

      1. 2 stars
        I don’t understand the positive reviews. Experienced cook, followed the recipe exactly. Ended up with a mix of raw and overcooked pasta and a soupy mess. Way, way too much chicken broth. Had to think on my feet to fix what would have been an embarrassment to serve. I did however like the flavor combinations.

        1. 2 stars
          I agree 100%. It’s a horrible mess of liquid and dry or mushy pasta. Waste of my money and nothing for dinner tonight.

  10. 5 stars
    I tried this recipe last night and it turned out AMAZING! I did add a tablespoon of herbs de Provence and I’ll definitely be making it again 🙂

  11. I made this casserole last night for dinner. It is delicious. I took the advise from one reviewer and placed all of the penne in the bottom of my 13 x 9 inch pan. Then I poured half of the chicken broth over the penne which I heated in the microwave to almost boiling. Next layered 3 cups of chicken from a whole chicken I had baked. Layered on top were the vegetables and spices. I used more tomatoes, corn, and zucchini yellow squash (all from my garden) than recipe suggests. Then I poured the remaining very hot chicken broth over the entire surface of vegetables. I included Herbs de Province, as a reviewer suggested, because I had a jar that has been in the spice cupboard longer than I can remember and it needs to be used. The casserole was perfect and we enjoyed it so much. Thank you, Blair.

    1. Hi, Jeff! I think it might be possible, but I’ve never tried, so I wouldn’t be able to give you any specific cooking instructions. You might try to find other similar pasta recipes to gauge the general cooking time, but it will likely take some trial and error to get it just right.

    1. Hi, Heather! No, you don’t need to boil the corn first. It will “boil” in the dish along with the pasta and other ingredients so that it’s crisp-tender by the end. You can certainly parboil it first if you want to ensure a really soft corn in the end, but that’s an extra step that I’ve never bothered with. 🙂