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5 from 3 votes

Dump-and-Bake Wagon Wheel Pasta Casserole

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!
Course Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Keyword healthy pasta casserole, Pasta casserole recipe, vegetarian pasta casserole
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 317kcal
Author Blair

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces (about 5 cups dry) uncooked mini wheels pasta (can substitute with elbow pasta or other small pasta with a cook time of about 7-8 mins)
  • 3 cups (about 25.5 ounces) marinara sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • Optional garnish: grated Parmesan cheese; chopped fresh parsley or basil

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

COOK'S TIPS AND RECIPE VARIATIONS:
  • This vegetarian pasta casserole obviously has no meat. Feel free, however, to add your favorite protein to the dish. Nice options include 1 lb. of cooked ground beef, ground turkey or ground chicken; 3-4 cups of cooked, diced chicken breast; or 1-2 cans of beans (drained and rinsed).
  • Stir in some veggies! If your kids like peas, zucchini, or frozen broccoli, stir that into the dish as well! If you're using a larger vegetable with a longer cooking time (like broccoli), you may want to steam the vegetables first before adding to the dish. For something small like frozen peas, you can just add them (still frozen) straight to the baking dish towards the end of the cooking time.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? I like to cut the ingredients in half and prepare the casserole in an 8-inch square pan. You can also use the full amount of ingredients, but divide the mixture evenly between two 8-inch pans. Bake one now, and freeze the other casserole for a later date!
  • Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese or chopped, fresh herbs, if desired.
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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casserole | Calories: 317kcal | Carbohydrates: 48g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 964mg | Potassium: 457mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 570IU | Vitamin C: 6.4mg | Calcium: 233mg | Iron: 1.7mg