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Lazy Pasta Bake

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This easy Pasta Bake recipe is the ultimate comfort casserole. Made with any short pasta, filled with your favorite sauce and meat, and topped with a hefty dose of mozzarella cheese. Perfect make-ahead dish the entire family will love.

This pasta is a filling meal all on its own, but it is also delicious served with homemade garlic bread or an Italian salad.

cooked pasta in sauce on a white plate with a bite on a fork

Recipe Features

  • Minimal Ingredients: One of the reasons this has become a staple in our home, besides the fact that it is delicious, is that it only uses 7 easy ingredients!
  • Dump and Bake Recipe: This is what we like to call a “lazy dinner” or “fuss-free recipe.” You literally dump ingredients in and bake. Zero prep.
  • Make-Ahead: Short on time? Prep this recipe the night or morning before and have it ready for the oven. Easy peasy.

This cheese topped meaty pasta bake recipe is hard to beat. It’s a go-to for when you have leftovers to use up (chicken or beef) and want a filling dinner that will feed a crowd. It is so easy to make ahead of time and you can really customize the dish based on your families tastes.

Bonus? My pickiest non-pasta eater will regularly request this dish. You can use chicken, meatballs, or sausage to add a bit of protein, and get a wonderful dose of creaminess thanks to the addition of heavy cream. Every bite is filled with flavor.

dried pasta in a bowl surrounded by recipe ingredients

Pasta Bake Ingredients:

The thing about this recipe is that it really is the perfect base for you to customize. It tastes amazing as-is, but you could easily add different seasonings or protein to help it fall in line with your family favorites. We’re big fans of adding leftover chicken, sausage, or meatballs to make this a more filling dish. Here are the basic ingredients you’ll need to have on hand for this recipe:

  • Pasta– The secret here is that you do not have to cook the pasta before adding it to the dish! It goes in completely dry and soaks up the delicious flavor of the sauce.
  • Tomato Sauce– This is where a lot of the flavor is going to come from, so I suggest picking a sauce you love the flavor of. We reach for Rao’s Homemade Marinara (which can be pricey, but you can find a 3 pack at Costco for a fraction of the price). But even cheaper sauces, I’m talking the Kroger 1.59 jars, will work with this recipe. All you have to do is slightly adjust the seasonings to give it a smidge more flavor.
  • Heavy Cream– Optional, but well loved. This gives your tomato base a rich and creamy finish that is drool worthy.
  • Water– Since the pasta is going in dry you will need a little extra liquid to make sure it has enough to cook the noodles.
  • Seasonings– Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper.
  • Meat– Another optional ingredient. We like to make this pasta when we have leftovers in the refrigerator that aren’t going to be used. Cooked chicken, sausage, ground beef, or meatballs are what we reach for.
  • Cheese– Stick with the classics when it comes to the cheese. Mozzarella and Parmesan are a must.

Optional: You can always add a cup of veggies to this dish. Try using spinach. You’ll get all of the health benefits and can hardly tell it’s added in!

dry pasta pouring into a baking dish

How to make a Pasta Bake

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mist the bottom of a 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Add the dry pasta, pasta sauce, cream, and water to the dish.
  4. Season with Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper. Mix to combine, making sure to coat the pasta well.
  5. Cover the dish with foil, sealing the edges tightly.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil.
  8. Stir in your meat and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese until combined.
  9. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan.
  10. Bake an additional 15 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
  11. Serve warm with a side salad or bread.
Close up of a spoon pulling baked pasta out of a pan

Variations of this Pasta Bake

  • Chicken Pasta Bake: This recipe is ideal for using up leftovers. If you have leftover chicken from the week, chop it into bite sized pieces, or shred, and heat for a minute or two before adding to the pasta. This is best for baked chicken, crispy chicken, or grilled chicken recipes. Try to avoid anything with strong flavors that won’t compliment the pasta.
  • Sausage Pasta Bake: This is my favorite way to make this recipe. This is especially delicious using Aidells® Cajun Style Andouille Smoked Pork Sausage (not sponsored. Just my fave). Cook according to the package directions and chop before adding to the pasta.
  • Beef Pasta Bake: Use cooked ground beef or meatballs.
  • Vegetarian Pasta Bake: Replace the meat with a lightly sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, and carrots.
  • Gluten Free: You can use a gluten free pasta in this recipe. Be sure to double check all of the ingredients to ensure gluten free options are used.
  • Dairy Free: Replace the cream with additional water and replace the cheese with your favorite dairy free option.

Recipe FAQs

What is the best pasta type to use in a bake?

We have made this recipe using Macaroni, Ziti, Penne, and Rigatoni with great success. Any smaller pasta should work well.

How do you make this in advance?

Prep this recipe ahead of time by combining the pasta, sauce, cream (if using), water and seasonings in the prepared baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and keep stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Follow the baking directions when ready to eat.

Can you freeze this pasta bake?

Yes. The best way to freeze this pasta is after it has cooked and cooled completely.
Be sure to cover the dish in plastic wrap followed by tin foil. This helps to prevent freezer burn and keep your pasta fresh longer.
When you are ready to cook, allow the pasta to slightly thaw in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic covering from the dish, but return the tin foil to cover the top.
Bake 45 minutes, or until heated through.

Can you double this recipe?

Yes. You can double this recipe and bake in a 9×13 pan for 10 to 12 servings.

white plate with a serving of pasta and a fork

More Pasta Recipes to Try:

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Lazy Pasta Bake

Lazy Pasta Bake

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

This easy Pasta Bake recipe is the ultimate comfort casserole. Made with any short pasta, filled with your favorite sauce and meat, and topped with a hefty dose of mozzarella cheese. Perfect make-ahead dish the entire family will love.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (1/2 box) short pasta like rigatoni or elbow
  • 1-1/2 cups pasta sauce
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 lb cooked meat- Chicken, sausage, or beef
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mist the bottom of a 9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Add the dry pasta, pasta sauce, cream, and water to the dish.
  4. Season with Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper. Mix to combine, making sure to coat the pasta well.
  5. Cover the dish with foil, sealing the edges tightly.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil.
  8. Stir in your meat and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese until combined.
  9. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan.
  10. Bake an additional 15 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
  11. Serve warm with a side salad or bread.

Notes

  • Chicken Pasta Bake: This recipe is ideal for using up leftovers. If you have leftover chicken from the week, chop it into bite sized pieces, or shred, and heat for a minute or two before adding to the pasta. This is best for baked chickencrispy chicken, or grilled chicken recipes. Try to avoid anything with strong flavors that won’t compliment the pasta.
  • Sausage Pasta Bake: This is my favorite way to make this recipe. This is especially delicious using Aidells® Cajun Style Andouille Smoked Pork Sausage (not sponsored. Just my fave). Cook according to the package directions and chop before adding to the pasta.
  • Beef Pasta Bake: Use cooked ground beef or meatballs.
  • Vegetarian Pasta Bake: Replace the meat with a lightly sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, and carrots.
  • Gluten Free: You can use a gluten free pasta in this recipe. Be sure to double check all of the ingredients to ensure gluten free options are used.
  • Dairy Free: Replace the cream with additional water and replace the cheese with your favorite dairy free option.

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