Baked pasta that you can easily whip up for your family dinner, my go to recipe I make every week. Quick video, stepwise photos.
When Aj started having Mac N cheese in Swensens, I asked him if I should make the same at home (a baked cheesy Mac and cheese). They have mushroom, yellow onion in it, but we always go for without mushrooms.
Like always, he came up with his own idea, asking me to put pasta sauce in it and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden. So he wants cheesy, creamy as well as red pasta sauce added to jazz up. Obviously, in my first attempt itself he told he wanted this in his weekly dinner menu.
Yes, he always have particular menu and is not easy to change it.
Pasta – I always use penne as it is easy to fork it, but you can go for fusilli, elbow, farfalle or any type you want. To start with, I cook it al dente and proceed with the mixing, baking part. Just follow the cooking instructions given in the back.
Cheese – I use two types of cheese in this recipe, cream cheese as well as mozzarella. At times I even use cheese spread in place of cream cheese. My recent favorite is herbed cream cheese (Arla).
Others – To be honest, never add any vegetables or spinach in it in my quick version. But highly recommend to add some like carrots, mushroom, zucchini or spinach to make it nutritious.
You can saute garlic, onion and vegetables followed by pasta sauce, add cooked pasta, sauce and cream cheese to it. And then bake it.
Mix in a handful of grated cheese before baking for more cheesy results.
Skip pasta sauce, make a white sauce and bake the same way.
Stir in some pesto instead of red pasta sauce.
👩🍳 Make ahead
You can prepare the pasta until the step before baking and then cool it, refrigerate it to bake later the day or next day. It keeps good for next two days.
Or freeze it with cling wrapped for upto a month. To bake frozen pasta, put it in fridge the before night and next day you can bake it with cheese topped over it.
Is video more your thing? Quick video here.
💭 Top tip
- To cook pasta perfectly seasoned with salt, taste the pasta cooking water. It should be salty like sea water.
- Do not over cook as it may lose it shape or break which wont look pleasant.
- Save some pasta cooked water in case you need the pasta to loosen up. If you add this water, pasta wont stick to each other after it is drained from water.
- Balance the acidity in sauce by adding ¼ tsp of sugar and some chilli flakes to it. Add some Italian herb for perfect flavor balance.
📝 My notes
Make sure to add enough pasta sauce for a juicy pasta bake. Mine was little on dry side this time as I added more pasta but forgot to adjust the pasta sauce measurement.
If your oven is too hot and the top turning black instead of golden, you can cover (half way through baking time) the top with aluminium foil to prevent it.
Also adjust the baking temperature plus or minus 10 deg if needed, as each oven may have different results.
💬 Related posts
Baked pasta | Dinner ideas
- 1.25 cup Penne pasta
- 6 cups water
- Salt as needed
- 1 tbsp butter/ Olive oil
- 2 cups Spinach I used baby spinach
- ½ tsp Garlic powder or 1 tsp chopped garlic
- ½ tsp Smoked paprika or Cayenne pepper/ chilli flakes
- ½ tsp Italian herb like dried oregano
- ¼ cup Cream cheese
- ¾ cup Pasta sauce I used one with basil
- 1 cup Grated Mozzarella cheese plus more if needed
- Bring 6 cups water to boil and cook pasta as per directions given in the package.
- Once al dente, keep aside. Reserve ¼ cup pasta cooked water in case you need later.
- Clean and chop spinach roughly.
- In a heavy bottomed pan, heat butter or olive oil.
- Tip in the chopped spinach. Sprinkle sugar and saute 2 mins in medium heat.
- Pour pasta sauce, 2 tbsp of reserved pasta cooked water, paprika, cream cheese, garlic powder, cooked pasta and little salt if needed.
- Mix well and cook for a minute. Switch off the flame.
- Preheat oven at 200 deg C for (10-12 mins)
- Transfer the cooked pasta to a baking dish, I usually use one oval and one small round dish.
- Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top to cover the pasta.
- Bake for 12-14 mins or until the cheese turns golden.
- Sprinkle some Italian herb, chilli flakes to serve.
- Adjust baking temperature plus or minus 10 deg as needed.
- Cover with aluminium foil half way if it starts to brown fast.
- Middle rack is perfect with both heating elements on.
📸 Stepwise Photos
1. First, bring 6 cups water to boil and cook pasta as per directions given in the package.
2. Once al dente, keep aside. Reserve ¼ cup pasta cooked water in case you need later.
3. Clean and chop spinach roughly.
4. In a heavy bottomed pan, heat butter or olive oil.
5. Tip in the chopped spinach. (If you are adding chopped garlic or onion, saute it first and then add spinach). After that, Sprinkle sugar and saute for 2 mins in low flame.
6. Pour pasta sauce, 2 tbsp of reserved pasta cooked water, paprika, cream cheese, garlic powder, cooked pasta and then little salt if needed.
7. Mix well and cook for a minute. Switch off the flame.
8. Preheat oven at 200 deg C for (10-12 mins)
9. Transfer the cooked pasta to a baking dish, I usually use one oval and one small round dish.
10. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top to cover the pasta. Bake for 12-14 mins or until the cheese turns golden. Finally, sprinkle some Italian herb, chilli flakes to serve.
Enjoy hot, with you favorite side.