With just 3 ingredients and about 5 minutes of prep, this Dump-and-Bake Wagon Wheel Pasta Casserole is an easy and healthy vegetarian dinner that's perfect for busy weeknights!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or two 8-inch square baking dishes) with cooking spray.
In the prepared dish (or in a separate bowl), stir together dry (uncooked) pasta, marinara sauce, water, salt and basil (if using). Cover tightly with foil.
Bake (covered) for 25 minutes.
Remove dish from oven, take off cover, and give the pasta a stir. At this point it should be almost done, but still a bit firm ("al dente").
Sprinkle the grated mozzarella cheese over the top of the casserole. Return the dish to the oven (uncovered) for an additional 5-10 minutes -- or just until the cheese is melted and the pasta is tender.
Garnish with optional grated Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs, if desired.
COOK'S TIPS AND RECIPE VARIATIONS:
Can you freeze this pasta casserole?
Yes, you can! It's not my first choice; however, because I worry that the texture of the pasta gets a bit compromised as it sits in the liquid. If you do choose to prep ahead and freeze the casserole, just know that the pasta might be a bit softer when it's done baking.
I recommend freezing this dump-and-bake casserole before baking.
How to Bake a Frozen Pasta Casserole:
Thaw the casserole in the refrigerator overnight, bring to room temperature on the counter for about 20 minutes, and then bake according to the recipe instructions.
To bake a frozen casserole straight from the freezer, you will need to increase the baking time significantly. Start with baking the dish (covered) for 1 hour at 425 degrees F, but stir the casserole occasionally and check pasta for tenderness as it cooks. The final cooking time will vary slightly, depending on the type of dish that you are using.