This dreamy, easy pasta bake recipe is everything! It's quick, it's versatile, and it's so dang simple to throw together. Perfect for those busy nights or for feeding a crowd, this dish is about to become your weeknight go-to. Pass the cheese, please!
Pasta is pretty much the holy grail of shelf cooking! It's hearty, it's filling, and there are literally thousands of ways to make pasta dishes your own. No penne? No problem! Out of beef? Sub in chicken! Running low on pasta sauce? Whip up your own.
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Not only is pasta DELICIOUS, but it also freezes so beautifully. Make-ahead meals, for the win! What, what?! After one bite of this unreal easy pasta bake, you'll be adding it to your regular dinner rotation. Are you ready for it?!
MAKE THIS EASY PASTA BAKE YOUR OWN
There's honestly so much to love about this recipe, but one of our favorite things is how easy it is to customize! Maybe your picky eaters won't touch cottage cheese? That's cool. Perhaps you're catering to a carbs conscious crowd? No problemo. Whatever the case may be, we've got some super easy tips you can use to customize this pasta dish.
- Ground Beef Substitutes – All out of beef? Around here, we like to pre-cook big batches and freeze ground beef, so that never happens. Good news, though. Pretty much any meat will work beautifully in this pasta bake! Try ground turkey, sausage, or ground chicken. You could even toss in some shredded chicken. Have a little bit of each? A mixture is TOTALLY fine.
- Tomato Sauce Substitutes – If you don't have any tomato sauce on hand, try an Alfredo sauce instead! We've also got a whole post that will show you how to whip up a tomato paste substitute in a hurry.
- Cheese Substitutes – If you're looking to cut dairy, you can skip the cheese altogether or opt for a vegan version. If you're just looking for an easy swap, use whatever cheese you've got! Ricotta is a perfect replacement for cottage cheese, and cheddar, swiss, or provolone will work just as well as mozzarella or parmesan. Try tossing in some feta for fun!
- Noodle Substitutes – If you don't have any penne, don't worry! Pretty much any pasta will do — try bow-tie, spaghetti, or linguini. Cutting out carbs? Zucchini noodles, lentil noodles, hearts of palm noodles, or even spaghetti squash work, too.
- Greek Yogurt Substitute – Sour cream works really well in a pinch if you don't keep Greek yogurt on hand.
Pro Tip: Before you start cooking, check your fridge and your freezer! Remember, shelf cooking is all about using what you've got. Get creative! Instead of letting things go to waste or buying up new ingredients, you don't need, take stock of what you have and think of all the possibilities.
EASY PASTA BAKE ADD-INS
As you're shopping your pantry, see if you have any of these yummy ingredients! These add-ins will take your easy pasta bake to the next level:
- Bread Crumbs – Want to add a little crunch and texture to this dish? During the last five minutes of baking, top with some bread or cracker crumbs and few pats of butter.
- Juice/Brine – It may sound strange, but if you've got a jar of olives on hand, toss some of that brine in with your pasta! The flavor is incredible, and it's a great way to use olive juice, so it doesn't go to waste. Toss in a few olives while you're at it!
- Other Pasta – Is there even such a thing as too much pasta? We vote no! If you have leftover macaroni and cheese or spaghetti, toss it in to make this dish even more filling! We sure do love a baked spaghetti.
- Spices – Turn up the heat! Toss in some chopped peppers or red pepper flakes to add an extra dose of flavor.
- Veggies – If you're like us, you're always looking for ways to sneak more veggies in for the kiddos. Try dicing up some carrot, spinach, mushrooms, or kale. If you happen to have fresh cherry tomatoes on hand, they make an excellent addition.
Don't be afraid to experiment! You know what your family loves, so swap ingredients in and out to suit your tastes. If you have sides left from earlier in the week, repurpose those leftovers by tossing them in your pasta. The possibilities are endless here!
HOW TO STORE, REHEAT, AND USE LEFTOVERS
We definitely can't guarantee you'll have leftovers (considering everyone will want seconds), but if you do, here's what you need to know!
Cover your casserole dish with plastic wrap or an airtight lid, then store in the refrigerator for up to four days. When you're ready to eat the leftovers, you can microwave each portion individually, or you can pop your dish in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes at 350°F. That's it! So, SO easy!
HOW TO MAKE OUR FAVORITE EASY PASTA BAKE RECIPE
Alright! We've kept you waiting long enough. Who's hungry?! Let's get cooking.
EASY PASTA BAKE
- 32 oz tomato sauce
- 8 oz diced tomatoes
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lg egg
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ¼ cup minced onion
- ½ cup plain greek yogurt
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 16 oz pasta
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions.
- While pasta cooks, brown the meat. As the meat cooks, add in the garlic and onion.
- When the meat has browned, drain the fat, then add in the tomato sauce and basil. Stir.
- Mix the cheeses, greek yogurt, egg, and parsley, setting aside about ½ cup of shredded cheese.
- Transfer cooked noodles to a glass casserole dish.
- Add the meat and sauce mixture to the casserole dish and stir.
- Add the cheese and yogurt mix to the casserole dish and combine evenly.
- Top with remaining shredded cheese, then bake uncovered at 350°F for 30 minutes.
How to Freeze/Thaw
- Once your dish has cooled, triple wrap with foil. Write "Pasta Bake" on top with a permanent marker, along with the baking instructions. Stick in the freezer for an easy meal, and enjoy within one year!
- When you're ready to eat the frozen meal, allow it to thaw in the fridge for around 24 hours, then bake as normal. To cook from frozen, add additional cooking time. Cook covered for an hour, then uncover and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and the pasta is cooked all the way through.
You guys! How stinkin' amazing does this look?! We're drooling over here.
We strongly encourage you to make two of these pasta bakes — one for now and one to freeze for later. After that first bite, you'll understand why. You can totally thank us later!
Tell us, what's your family's favorite type of pasta? Leave a comment below!
Looking for the perfect dishes to round out your pasta dinner? Here are a few ideas!
- No meal is complete without this easy rustic bread.
- This easy fruit salad with cool whip is tasty and kid-approved!
- Finish your feast with this oh-so-yummy easy peach cobbler.