This Vegetarian Pasta Bake is packed full of delicious vegetables and baked with pasta in a simple but delicious sauce. You will love this budget-friendly dinner!
My family grew up vegetarian, and while I do eat meat now, I can still see all the great benefits of that diet. Generally speaking, it tends to be a touch healthier because you are working so many more vegetables into your diet. Additionally, it can be a lot healthier on your wallet.
I love giving you meals that allow you to dabble in vegetarianism, so you can get some of those benefits, even if it’s no how you want to change your whole diet. This meal is the perfect example. It is vegetarian, but would be loved by even the most avid meat eater.
How to Make Vegetarian Pasta Bake
Here is a brief overview of how this hearty mixed vegetable casserole recipe comes together. For the full recipe including all measurements, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Make the pasta. Boil the noodles for two minutes less than the time stated on the box. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Sauté the vegetables. In a large skillet, cook the onion, carrots, zucchini, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes for two minutes. Add in the mushrooms and cook until everything is soft and tender.
- Make the sauce. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to the vegetables, stirring to combine. Stir in the basil and oregano and bring the sauce to a boil.
- Finish the sauce. Once the sauce has simmered, add the baby spinach, allowing it to wilt.
- Put it all together. Combine the noodles and the sauce in the casserole dish. Stir in one cup of cheese. Then stir in a second cup. Stirring it in two groups will prevent it from melting too quickly, which will allow it to be evenly distributed throughout the casserole.
- Bake the casserole. Top with remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese on top is bubbly and begins to brown.
Vegetables For Casserole
Vegetables make up the bulk of this vegetarian casserole so we use a good variety that all add flavor, color, texture, and best of all – nutritional value. Feel free or add or swap fresh vegetables depending on what you have on hand and what your family likes.
If you decide to leave out a vegetable, I recommend replacing it with a different vegetable or more of another.
Making Pasta For Casserole
Making pasta for any recipe is simple, but a few simple steps will make it perfect in all of your favorite recipes. I used penne, but any medium-sized pasta will work such as bow tie, shells, or rigatoni.
- Use plenty of water. Pasta expands while it cooks, so be sure to have plenty of water in your pot. A pound of pasta needs four to six quarts of water.
- Bring it to a roaring boil. You want to see big bubbles before you add your dry noodles.
- Set a timer. Because this casserole will be baked, we want to slightly undercook the pasta initially so that it doesn’t overcook in the oven. Once you add the dry noodles to the boiling water, set a timer for two minutes less than what the package recommends.
Shredded Cheese For Baked Pasta
This vegetarian pasta bake recipe uses three cups of shredded cheese. The creaminess it adds to the casserole is so delicious. I highly recommend grating your own cheese from a block rather than buying pre-shredded. It will melt easier and taste so much better than the pre-shredded stuff and is worth the extra few minutes of your time. I always recommend this step when making a recipe that calls for shredded cheese.
We intentionally add the cheese in two steps so that it doesn’t melt too quickly and so that it is evenly distributed with the other ingredients. Add the first cup of cheese, stir to combine, then add the second cup and stir.
Using a Skillet
This pasta bake with vegetables can also be made in a skillet as long as it is oven-safe. Once you sauté your vegetables and make the sauce, add the cooked pasta right to the skillet followed by the cheese. Top with cheese and bake as the recipe directs.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Store any leftover vegetarian bake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat only the portion you plan to eat as leftovers should only be reheated once. Always use your best judgment with leftovers.
To make this casserole ahead of time, follow the recipe up to the point of putting it together in the baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to a day before baking. When ready to bake, remove the foil, and top with the remaining cheese. You may need to add an extra 5-10 minutes of baking time since it is coming out of a cold refrigerator.
If you want to freeze this casserole, follow the recipe up to the point of putting it in the baking dish. I recommend using a disposable or aluminum baking dish, as glass and ceramic can shatter in a hot oven when they are cold. Cover the dish tightly with foil and then three times with plastic wrap. Store in the freezer for up to three months. When you are ready to bake it, remove the plastic wrap and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and browning.
If you make this vegetarian casserole recipe or any of my other recipes, let me know by leaving a comment. I love hearing from you and what you think of my recipes!
Vegetarian Pasta Bake
- 16 ounces penne 454 grams
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 1 medium zucchini diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms 226.9 grams (I like using baby portabellas)
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes 794 grams (drained)
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon dried basil
- 3 cups baby spinach 127.5 grams
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese 453.592 grams (shredded and divided)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese 42.5243 grams shredded
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat to boil the penne. Once the water is at a roaring boil, season it with salt and add the noodles. Boil the noodles for 2 minutes less than the time stated on the box. Drain the pasta and set aside.16 ounces penne, 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- While the pasta is boiling, place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the olive oil for 30 seconds before adding the onion, carrots, zucchini, red pepper, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add in the mushrooms. Cook until everything is soft and tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain any excess liquid from the pan.2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium yellow onion, 2 medium carrots, 1 medium zucchini, 2 garlic cloves, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 8 ounces sliced mushrooms, 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Stir in the basil and oregano. Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.28 ounces diced tomatoes, 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano, 1/2 tablespoon dried basil, 8 ounces tomato sauce
- Add the spinach to the sauce, allowing it to wilt.3 cups baby spinach
- In the casserole dish, combine the noodles and the sauce. Stir in 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Then stir in a second cup. Stirring it in 2 groups will prevent it from melting too quickly and allow it to be evenly distributed throughout the casserole. (Alternatively, combine all of this in the skillet if it is oven-proof.)4 cups mozzarella cheese
- Add the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella and the parmesan in an even layer over the top. Bake uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese on top is bubbly and beginning to brown. Serve warm and enjoy!1/2 cup parmesan cheese