Easy Italian Pasta Bake

It almost seems silly to even call this a recipe. It’s basically a “cook some noodles in spaghetti sauce, add meat, top with cheese” kind of idea. Goulash in a casserole dish. Spaghetti with different noodles and turned into a casserole. Ah, but instead of letting you know all of that, I’ll act like it’s a fancy dish called…Italian Pasta Bake.

You’re impressed, aren’t you?

Ah well…simple recipes are what I do best. They’re what my family likes best and they’re easy to make. This recipe also freezes well and is easy to make for company.

Italian Pasta BakeYum

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1/4 cup chopped onion or 3 Tablespoons dry minced onion
4 cups tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons basil
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder or one clove fresh garlic
Sea salt to taste
10 ounces whole wheat pasta, any shape (we like bionature brand)
2 cups shredded cheese (we use white cheddar, but you can use mozzarella or any combination of your favorite cheeses)

Brown meat and onion together. Meanwhile, bring tomato sauce, water and herbs and spices to a boil. Stir in pasta and boil until tender. Do not drain. The pasta should have absorbed the liquid! Mix in cooked meat. Salt as desired. Spread mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish and top with cheese. Bake uncovered at 350° for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and the casserole is heated through and through.

So, do you have a favorite pasta shape?  I think picking the shape of pasta for our dinner is kinda fun. Penne, Fusilli, Rotini, even good ol’ Elbow.  

Ah the joy of picking pasta shapes. Am I the only one who thinks this is fun?

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Comments

  1. Blair says

    No way! I love picking the pasta shapes! I’ve always thought I was silly for it. But I’m glad to see someone elses excitement!

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  2. Marianne says

    This must be why I love all your recipes, simple, tasty, real-

    My kids LOVE trying new shapes. We are into the swirly whirly curly shaped one right now, not sure of the real name Lol

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  3. Cathy says

    I’ll have to try this–I’ve never seen the tip about mixing the sauce into the water and cooking the pasta in both! That would certainly simplify things. And, your picture looks perfect–my family’s favorite pasta shape is penne. Thanks for the recipe idea.

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  4. Tina Dill says

    I do this same recipe, but put half of it in the pan and spread a layer of sour cream and provolone cheese. Then the rest of the pasta and shredded cheese. My family asks for it frequently!

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  5. Gina says

    I was just cleaning out my pantry and found some whole wheat pasta I didn’t know what to do with, now I do!!! Thanks for noter great, healthy and easy recipe!!

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  6. says

    That looks so good. I just need to find a decent gluten free pasta to substitute with. :-)

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    Courtney Reply:

    We really like the gluten-free pasta made by Bionaturae. You can get it from Amazon. I ordered a case of the fusilli and have used it in all kinds of different pasta recipes and it tastes great.

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  7. Rebecca says

    I made the following recipe last week and it was really good and the children liked it too!
    The original recipe calls for microwaving the whole thing, which I don’t own a microwave. So I cooked the noodles, chopped the zucchini (instead of grilling), sauted the tomatoes, garlic, wine, and broth, and put all of the ingredients into a baking dish and baked at 350 for about 30 min. Very easy!

    Grilled Zucchini Penne Al Fresco

    4 garlic cloves, peeled
    2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
    3 cups penne pasta
    1 cup vegetable broth
    ¾ cups dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
    ½ tsp each salt and ground black pepper
    1-1/4 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, divided (I used dried)
    1 oz Parmesan cheese grated (about ¼ cup)
    2 cups chopped zucchini

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    Karen Reply:

    YUMMY…thanks for sharing!

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  8. Sally says

    This is one of our family favorites too. We add ricotta
    cheese and an egg mixed with all the cheese on top.
    Sort of like lasagna with other pasta shapes. You have
    such great ideas!

    [Reply]

  9. Gina says

    What temperature do you bake this at Laura?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Oh, duh. Sorry about that! 350 degrees. I’ll go edit the post!

    [Reply]

  10. says

    Actually, we’ve been eating pasta bake kind of things more, and we’re starting to switch back to plain ol’ spaghetti. I forgot how good it is that way, too! :>)

    [Reply]

  11. Sheila says

    I also think that the shape changes the taste of the pasta, but that could just be me. I love this idea for a simple pasta dish and will make it soon.

    [Reply]

  12. says

    I Love Italian Bake – so so so easy like you said and every one LOVES IT!!! Thanks for sharing it – I make homemade bread with it and serve the bread warm with it – YUM – I am getting hungry just thinking about it!!! :)

    [Reply]

  13. DorthyM says

    this sounds yummy! Hey laura, would this be able to be prepared and then frozen? Would it be better to have it uncooked or cooked to freeze it? I’m thinking of making some meals to freeze for my mom and brother.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yep, you can freeze it. I’d say put it all together (with cooked noodles and meat) but don’t bake it until you thaw it.

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  14. Rachel B says

    I love freezer meals, but I’ve never frozen pasta before. It comes out OK? Any tips for the freezing/defrosting/reheating process to keep the pasta in good shape? This looks really yummy! I’m afraid I’d eat it ALL, though! :) And I can’t possibly think of a favorite pasta shape – they’re all SO good!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yeah, pasta freezes just fine. I sometimes even put it directly from the freezer into a cold oven, then turn the oven on and let it thaw and cook at the same time!

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  15. Esther L says

    Sounds yummy and I love the idea of popping it into the freezer for dinner on another night. Thanks for the great post!

    [Reply]

  16. Pam Frohn says

    This looks great! Do you use just plain sauce to cook it in. I’m wondering if crushed tomatoes would work or if I would be better with marinara. Maybe I should just try both.

    Pam

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  17. says

    Oh pasta…oh casseroles…how I love thee!

    Always great to have a new pasta recipe! We get tired of the same old one! You could throw some fresh spinach in this one, too for another nutritional boost!

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  18. Danielle says

    Yummo!!!! I’d call this baked ziti tho lol. Funny thing is I was going to make baked ziti tomorrow!

    I like ALL shaples of pasta. I’m not big on the spaghetti, linguini, or fettucini noodles tho. I’ll make those on occasion, but rarely.

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    Danielle Reply:

    I’d should be I!

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  19. Vanessa says

    Yummy! I received this as a freezer meal after the last baby, and everyone loved it (although I had to pick off the cheese…) But it would be pretty easy to skip the cheese on half, or use goat cheese, so it is much nicer than a recipe that mixes the cheese in.

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  20. Andrea says

    Mmm. Yum. I’ve been using the brown rice penne pasta from Azure. A nice way that I can still have pasta while I’m not eating wheat! This looks so good. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  21. Carmen says

    I’ve found this is a great way to reuse and sometimes even “expand” spaghetti night leftovers. It seems we use less sauce in baked dishes like this than when serving spaghetti and sauce separately.

    [Reply]

  22. says

    This sounds like something I would have eaten a few months ago and loved it. I have had to cut out grains for a bit- but maybe noodle free would be just as good . . .

    [Reply]

    Exchanges with Spelt Reply:

    Spaghetti Squash!!! Just cook the squash and then add it as you would noodles, delish!!

    [Reply]

    Taryn Reply:

    What a great idea! Thanks.

    [Reply]

  23. Debra says

    I love pasta – how about a different shape for each day of the week :) Thanks for another great (and easy) recipe!

    [Reply]

  24. says

    It sounds so much better, doesn’t it? :) I need to be better with names as I am often a make it up as I go cook. Then my husband asks what it is and I’ll say that I don’t know, but if he likes it he better enjoy it because it may never taste like that again! And then we laugh.

    I need better names!
    Heather

    [Reply]

  25. Leah says

    my family has a dish called 4-Pasta beef bake…we get to pick 4 shapes of pasta for one casserole…basically it’s the same as your Italian beef bake.

    [Reply]

  26. Nancy Michel says

    Looks delicious!!! Will be a definate one to try.

    I would like the what to do with the chicken in my kitchen e-cookbook

    [Reply]

  27. BethAnn says

    I love the idea of not cooking my noodles separate. I am new to your blog, I’m still learning, but I absolutely love your recipes. I am limited on what I can try as my daughter has a severe egg allergy! Thank you for inspiring me.

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  28. says

    My children love pasta cooked almost anyway. And I love the ease and versitility of pasta. One of our favorites is chicken, pasta, cheese, and cream of chicken soup.

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  29. Erin says

    Pasta shapes. I am always trying to find good ones for my three year old. He will eat more if the shapes are fun

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  30. Erin says

    I need a quick easy dish for a potluck tomorrow night, I think this might be the one. Thanks for the health, quick, easy, tasty recipes.

    [Reply]

  31. Bethany B. says

    Yum!!!! Can’t beat that combo of ingredients!!! I’m going to try it with bowtie pasta, it’s my favorite & makes my meals seem a bit more fancy :)

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  32. susan says

    i love the bow tie pasta. My dh makes a delish dish with penne, feta, an oil & garlic sauce, pepperocinis, and black olives. we never knew what to call it so one night the kids asked what was for dinner and i said “daddy’s special pasta.” it’s been special pasta ever since.

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  33. Kristina says

    That’s so funny! I love to pick out different pasta shapes, it makes my family feel like they are getting variety even with the same recipe. My husband’s favorite is gemeli.

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  34. Emily says

    I love it, how cute are your boys!?! And I love how their distinct personalities totally shine through in these pictures. (I mean, not that I know you or them but am assuming that their responses are telling). Not to mention, I ‘feel’ like I know you. Really enjoy your blog and your commitment to your family and our God.

    [Reply]

    Emily Reply:

    oop this totally go in the wrong post’s responses. . . the potato one :)

    [Reply]

  35. Nicole Brewer says

    I’ve never tried cooking my pasta in with the sauce. Will definitely try this. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Some nights I really need easy.. but always like homemade!! Thanks for sharing :)

    [Reply]

  36. Annie says

    I’ve become a fan of the Barilla mini pastas lately, although I wish they had the whole wheat variety. The mini spirals and bowties are so much fun for little fingers!

    [Reply]

  37. Blair says

    This sounds totally yummy, but the inside of my oven is totally yucky. I can’t cook anything in there, because the stuff that is burnt on the boTtom smells bad and when I open it I feel like I’m gona hurl. Could be bc I’m prego. Lol

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  38. Sacha says

    Sounds like a great recipe. I think I have every shape of pasta in my pantry right now. I might be obsessed with pasta shapes. Especially the mini pastas.

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  39. JOellyn says

    My daughter’s fave shape is the mini bow ties!! And this recipe looks so good. wishing I had read the blog yesterday…next time!! lol!

    [Reply]

  40. Jami says

    Different pastas are fun. Keeps it exciting! I do like Rigatoni! This sounds like the lasagna casserole that you make! We love it! I like the name better here though! Ha! Would love to win an ebook. All of them I have so far are awesome!!!

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  41. Elaine says

    How do you cook it so the bottom doesn’t burn with tomato sauce. When I tried the creamy mac and cheese, our noodles didn’t get done and the sauce was too thick. I loved the idea of not using another pan to cook noodles. I am all about saving dishes to not wash!!

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  42. Hope says

    We make this recipe all the time! It is so simple to make, my daughters can make it all by themselves (ages 12, 10, 7). And everyone loves it! But thanks for the tip about preparing the noodles in the sauce. That will definitely make for easier clean up.

    [Reply]

  43. Dana says

    Sounds yummy! I’ve made something similar in the past, seems like it’s time to break out that dish again!

    I would love to win one of your ebooks! There are so many that look good!

    [Reply]

  44. Christina says

    My kid and I choose our fav pasta by it’s name. Right now we love the word Ziti. Not only is it good but it is fun to say.

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  45. Michelle says

    I do this often as well–I try to add ricotta for extra yumminess. It’s so much easier than lasagna and almost as good!

    [Reply]

  46. Lorinda says

    Our favorite is Rotini and the tube like pasta in tomato dishes and bowtie,elbow or mini shells for macaroni salads. We have made a similiar dish and called it Western Mac. I’ve also heard it called Ziti.

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  47. says

    This recipe sounds delish!! When you freeze it, do you first assemble, bake, freeze, then bake again. Or assemble, freeze, then bake?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Assemble, then freeze…then thaw and bake. Or don’t thaw…just put it in the oven, turn the oven on about 275 and let it thaw and heat at the same time!

    [Reply]

  48. Paula says

    You could hide some white navy beans in there too for extra lean protein/fiber. Also, I recently tried cooking my noodles in the sauce and the liquid did not absorb so much. I thought it was my whole wheat noodles (the recipe called for regular pasta noodles) but I see that is what you use.

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  49. Becky says

    This recipe was delicious! My two year old daughter had four helpings and my seven year old son had three helpings! Loved it! Also, shared the leftovers with my staff the next day!

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  50. Irene says

    Try adding ricotta mixed with one beaten egg, parmesan, fresh italian parsley, salt and pepper. Stir it into the pasta before you bake it. Then, add the mozzarella on top. I’m 100% Italian and this is how we’ve been making this recipe for years.

    [Reply]

    Michelle Reply:

    What are your measurements for the added ingredients?

    [Reply]

    June Reply:

    Hi How much ricotta and parmesan and how much Italian parsley

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  51. Jackie says

    If I wanted to make this ahead of time and freeze it, do you recommend just getting it all prepared. Then freezing instead of baking for 20 minutes, and then defrosting and baking? Or would you bake it ahead of time, then freeze it and heat it up?

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’d say freeze before you bake, defrost, then bake.

    [Reply]

  52. Kristen B. says

    Just tried making this tonight for a family full of picky eaters and it was a HUGE hit!!! I am SO excited to try more recipes!! Thank you for sharing all your lovely creations!

    [Reply]

  53. says

    I tried making it but the pasta got a bit burnt on the bottom before the pasta on top got cooked all the way through – did this happen to you? How did you keep the pasta from sticking? Thanks so much for this recipe!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve never had this trouble…you may need to cook it at a lower temperature next time? You could also butter your pan to keep your pasta from sticking.

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    rona Reply:

    This is Baked Ziti. Cover with tin foil, and bake. Remove tin foil last 15 minutes and add mozzarella to melt on the top. TIP: Before putting tin foil on spray with cooking spray so taht the sauce does not “eat” into the tin foil.

    [Reply]

    Gina Reply:

    I tried to reply here so you could read it Jackie H . . . See my post below. I had the same problem!

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    Jackie H Reply:

    Thanks, Gina & Laura!

    [Reply]

  54. darialauren says

    i wonder could you use leftover chicken parmesan cut up into the pasta instead of ground beef/turkey??

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Sure, chicken parmesan in this recipe sounds delicious!

    [Reply]

  55. Gina says

    I had it happen each time I made it so I just wound up adding an extra cup of water and it helped a little. It still stuck some but it didn’t burn with the extra water. Maybe its the past we are using. It seems to take quite a while for mine to cook and the water seems to evaporate before its done. It still turns out great, my picky-eaters love it.

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  56. laura says

    My family loved this recipe. I doubled it and put one in the freezer. So glad I did. Looking forward to having it again. I love all your recipes. Made the corndogs the other day and planning on making your Honey Whole Wheat Bread next. I’ve made a ton of them and we’ve loved them all so far.

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    Abbey Reply:

    The honey whole wheat bread is the BEST! I’ve stopped buying bread and have been baking this every week! We made the italian pasta bake tonight and added a mish mash of veggies we had laying around – spinach, mushrooms, peppers, etc. It was delicious! So glad I found this blog Laura!

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  57. Ceyla says

    Good recipe, Laura! I’ve made this for years and had the problem of the pasta burning, so I cooked the pasta for 3/5 minutes first and then added it. Also, I buttered the pan very well. When I have left over veggies or am cleaning out the freezer, I add either green beans, peas or corn.
    Ceyla

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  58. gillian says

    My three extremely picky kids all said that this was the best dinner that they had ever eaten—Thank you!!!

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  59. terri says

    I put whichever noodles I have and a jar of favorite sauce in a pan the night before, put in fridge and the next day top with cheese, mushrooms, olives and bake, no need to boil pasta.

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    Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) Reply:

    Woah! What a great idea!! Especially in the heat of summer when cooking anything cranks up the temperature of the kitchen.

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  60. Leeann says

    To keep the noodles from sticking/ my daughter in law uses a capful of olive oil in the pasta water. It might help with the burning.

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  61. Susan Alexander says

    Confused on the “tomato sauce” – can this be plain tomato sauce (like from a can) or does it really need to be seasoned sauce (like what you’d add meat to for spaghetti)?

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    Laura Reply:

    This is the plain tomato sauce, then you add the other seasonings mentioned in the recipe. :)

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    Susan Alexander Reply:

    Wonderful as I don’t buy the jarred stuff and this recipe is so easy I wouldn’t want to take the time to make the real seasoned sauce! :)

    [Reply]

  62. Stacy says

    I have never cooked my pasta in the sauce and water. REALLY excited to try this one!!!! You are just using plain tomato sauce from cans, not like a Ragu or Prego

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, just plain tomato sauce, then I add my own herbs and spices (just the ones described in the recipe).

    [Reply]

  63. Susan Alexander says

    Ok, made this for dinner and we LOVED it. I made a few very small changes. I had underestimated how much sauce to buy and only bought one large can of sauce. So, I improvised with a can of diced tomatoes which turned out great. Next time, however, I will dial back the sauce to a medium-sized can because it was just a little too saucy after all. LOL

    I added roughly 1/2-1 tsp sucanat because I find that really brings out the flavor of tomato sauce. Next time I will add a little pepper too. I also always brown my beef, then add the onion and brown. I doubled to two cloves of garlic and browned that in with the onion.

    I also did a little thinking and realized I can brown the beef in my large cast iron pan and then pour the sauce/noodle mixture in and then I can stick the whole thing in the oven and save a pan! ;)

    Thanks for this yummy recipe! Oh and next time we’re going to try an italian sausage instead of ground beef…

    [Reply]

  64. katherine jenson says

    I am going to make this and use either quinoa or whole wheat pasta. Then freeze for lunches to take to work or a fast dinner! What a nice recipe!

    [Reply]

  65. Erin says

    This is one of my family’s favorite dishes! But I don’t bother to cook the pasta/sauce on the stove-top beforehand because I have an aversion to extra dirty dishes :) I put the uncooked pasta in the baking dish, cover it with the meat-sauce mixture and raise the oven temperature up to 375 to make up for the difference. Works great and less kitchen mess! What’s not to love?

    [Reply]

    Erin Reply:

    Oops! I meant 400 degrees, not 375 :)

    [Reply]

    Myra Reply:

    Erin, do you cover the pan while baking? Great idea! I have to try it!

    [Reply]

  66. sheri says

    I don’t do the pasta like that, but have made this for years. One thing i like to do is add some El pato sauce (mexican tomato sauce). Add to taste, it is spicy.

    [Reply]

  67. Kristin says

    Was looking for a new “spaghetti” recipe to help mix it up a little. Can’t wait to try it and let you know how much my family loved it!!!!

    [Reply]

  68. Angela H. says

    I need to make this for 50 people….Please help.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Depending on what you’re serving with this, you might want to plan to make 4 of these. Or, I’d make five if you are serving very few sides.

    [Reply]

  69. Cheri says

    Any suggestions on the adjustments to this recipe if I wanted to leave out the meat? Thanks!!

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    No need to adjust anything, just leave out the meat!

    [Reply]

  70. Lila says

    I am fascinated by the science of 10 ounces of pasta absorbing 6 cups of liquid so I must make this just to see it done ! And the next time I spill hot water on the floor, I am going to forego the mop and throw a box of pasta down instead. :-)

    [Reply]

  71. Mary says

    I originally asked for meals for 20 people and this website came up…I click on the Italian Pasta Bake…but it looks like it is only for a new…meat is 1lb….Can you tell me how to increase ingredients for 20 people…thanks

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I would triple this recipe for 20 people. :)

    [Reply]

  72. Marisa B. says

    How many cups is 10 oz of pasta? I have some penne in a large storage container with no packaging!!

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    I think 8 oz is about 2 cups so maybe about a 2 1/4 cups???

    [Reply]

  73. Marisa B. says

    Well, I was making it right away so I just eye-balled it. Four cups dry penne seemed about right. Hope that helps someone else!

    [Reply]

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