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Easy Pasta Bake (No Boiling Required!) 

posted January 5, 2024
by Cassandra Morris
What is the easiest dinner for busy weeknights? It’s got to be this no-boil pasta bake! A simple yet hearty make-ahead dinner everyone will love.

Last Friday, Walt and I hosted a get-together at our place with our circle of friends. Think geeky board games, wine, delicious food and the end of the night (after a few glasses of wine) Kareoke! After our recent trip to Italy Walt and I couldn’t stop dreaming about pasta. I mean, who can blame us, right? When we got back I had a girls night and in a stroke of brilliance, one of my closest friends Hayley suggested we should give pasta its own special day. Move over Taco Tuesday, because we proudly present… Pasta Friday! Okay, maybe the name doesn’t have that catchy ring, but who cares? We’ve officially made Fridays the day of pasta in our house. Join the carb party!

After a very competitive round of The Settlers of Catan and a whole lot of cheesy pasta jokes, we were 100% ready for some pasta. 

I whipped up my lemon wine pasta and a healthy spaghetti squash lasagna – not technically pasta, but still counts. 🙂 

The highlight of the evening would definitely be this triple-cheese no-boil pasta bake, which everyone finished within seconds! 

What is a no-boil pasta bake?

I would describe pasta bake as a classic pasta, except cooked in a casserole dish. All the ingredients are slowly baked until the cheese bubbles, the pasta has cooked, and the house smells like an Italian restaurant. 

Unlike regular pasta where the noodles are boiled and then combined with the sauce, the pasta cooks in the sauce itself. This can be as simple as any pasta sauce and cheese (I use ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese in this recipe) or loaded with meat and veggies. 

How long does it take to make pasta bake?

This pasta bake stands out as one of the speediest meals to whip up, ensuring an unforgettable burst of flavors that might just feel like a culinary miracle!

Call me lazy, but anytime there’s a recipe that takes less than 10 minutes of hands-on prep, you know I’m all for it. 

You simply chuck all the ingredients in the dish and throw it into the oven for 1.5 hours until it is warm and gooey. The oven does most of the work, and this means more time for playing board games… My inner geek is happy. 

Do You Have to Boil Pasta Before Baking? 

For this pasta bake recipe, you do not need to boil or cook the pasta before baking it. 

Since this recipe already gives the pasta a lot of time (1.5 hours, to be specific) to cook in the oven with the magic sauce, there is no need to pre-cook it to al dente or anything. 

In fact, that might actually be a bad idea. Boiling the pasta and then baking it after that will result in overcooked mushy pasta.  

Recipe Ingredients

The base ingredients for this recipe are very easy to find. This recipe literally screams easy from the very beginning: shopping for ingredients!

  • Pasta sauce – Get 2 jars (approximately 22oz each) of your favorite pasta sauce. Do you like marinara, bolognese, or alfredo? Whatever you feel like, go for it! In this recipe, I use marinara sauce.
  • Water – Prepare 3 cups of water to mix with the sauce.
  • Spiral pasta – Get a 1-pound box (approximately 454 grams) of spiral pasta. Spiral pasta like rotini or fusilli pasta is bite-sized and fits snugly on a spoon. If you are unable to find spiral pasta, go for macaroni, penne, or conchiglie. Long strands of pasta won’t work for this recipe. 
  • Ricotta cheese – Get 2 containers (approximately 15 oz or 475 grams) of Ricotta cheese. 
  • Mozzarella cheese – Shred some fresh mozzarella cheese, enough to fill 4 cups.
  • Parmesan cheese – Grate some Parmesan, enough to fill 1 cup. 
  • Herbs – I like to garnish my pasta bake with some fresh basil or parsley leaves. This step is optional but definitely adds that fancy touch. 

This recipe already tastes good as it is, but you can always add your own twist to it. Bring some more flavor with a dash of Italian seasoning, garlic powder, or chicken broth (instead of water). 

Ground beef, ground turkey, and chicken sausage go great in this recipe as proteins. As for vegetables, chop up some cherry tomatoes, broccoli florets, or bell peppers, and you’re good to go. This recipe is super customizable! 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Let’s section the instructions into three main steps: prepare, bake, and serve. 

Prepare the pasta:

Step One: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a large 9×13 inch baking dish (5-quart) with cooking spray. 

  • Pro Tips: Non-stick cooking spray prevents the ingredients from sticking to the dish. Whoever’s doing the dishes will be grateful for your forethought! 

Step Two: Dump all the ingredients into a large bowl (put aside 1 ½ cups of mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup of parmesan cheese for later). Mix until well-combined.

Bake the pasta:

Step Three: Pour the mixture into the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake it for 1 hour.

  • Pro Tip: To ensure the pasta fully cooks, crimp the aluminum foil tightly around the edges of the pan to prevent steam from escaping. 

Step Four: After 1 hour, remove the foil and then sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the pasta bake.  

Step Five: Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes uncovered. 

Step Six: Switch the oven to broil. Broil until the top is browned in spots for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Step Seven: Remove the pasta bake from the oven. Let it rest uncovered for 15 minutes before serving. 

  • Pro Tip: This is not lasagna, so you do not need to cut it into squares before serving. Simply use a large serving spoon to grab some of that delicious cheesy pasta goodness.  

Expert Tips & Tricks

Follow these pro tips for the best pasta bake you’ll ever make: 

  • Do not serve pasta bake fresh out of the oven without cooling it first. It is absolutely important to let the pasta bake rest for at least 15 minutes so the sauce thickens up and holds together. 
  • Need a meal prep idea? This recipe keeps very well in the fridge or freezer. Pasta bake for days? I can so do that.   

Storage Instructions

How to keep leftover pasta bake: 

On the rare occasion that there are leftovers, we usually keep them in the fridge, covered. I’m usually happy to cover the baking dish with tin foil and crimp the edges tightly to prevent it from drying out. But if you can transfer it into an airtight container, even better. Pasta bake lasts in the fridge for up to 2 days. 

Make ahead and freeze pasta bake:

Frozen pasta bake ensures you have an easy meal within reach that’s yummy and filling. Just what I need for the lazy days! Freezing allows it to keep well for up to 3 months. 

To freeze, bake the pasta covered with foil as per instructions. Discard the foil and let the pasta bake cool for an hour. Next, sprinkle the shredded mozzarella and parmesan on top and cover with tin foil. 

Alternatively, you can portion the pasta bake into individual containers. 

To reheat pasta bake: 

Thaw the frozen pasta bake in the fridge overnight. My favorite way to reheat pasta bake is by microwaving it for 4 minutes or until the cheese starts bubbling and the inside is hot. If you want to achieve the browned spots on the cheese, simply broil it in the oven after it has heated up. 

I hope you loved this easy no-boil pasta dish! If you’re thinking of throwing your own Pasta Friday get-together, here are some of the recipes I mentioned and a few others: 

No Boil Pasta Bake Recipe

What is the easiest dinner for busy weeknights? It’s got to be this no-boil pasta bake! A simple yet hearty make-ahead dinner everyone will love.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 2 jars of your favourite pasta sauce approx 22 oz each
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 15 oz / 475 grams Ricotta cheese containers
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese divided
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 (454 grams) box spiral pasta (rotini or fusilli pasta)
  • fresh basil or parsley leaves for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a large 9x13 (5 quart) inch pan with cooking spray.
  • Dump everything into a bowl (except for 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella cheese and a ¼ cup of parmesan cheese) and mix.
  • Pour mixture into the baking dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake it for 1 hour. Remove the foil and sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese then top with the mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes uncovered.
  • Switch the oven to broil and broil until the top is browned in spots, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let the pasta bake rest uncovered for 15 minutes before serving. This is important as the sauce really thickens up at this time.

Hi, I’m Cassandra!

I’m a proud wife, dog mom, food lovin’ Canadian girl, former TV reality show personality, wine lover and on a mission to make living a healthy + balanced lifestyle easy for everyone.

More about me

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Hi, I'm Cassandra!

I'm a proud wife, dog mom, food lovin' Canadian girl, former TV reality show personality, wine lover and on a mission to make living a healthy + balanced lifestyle easy for everyone.

More about me

Never miss a recipe!

Sign up for free recipes straight to your inbox:

Free E-Cookbook!

Cooking dinner doesn’t have to take all night. Subscribe & receive my favourite 10 Quick & Easy Dinner Recipes in an easy e-cookbook format!

Jujeh kabab - Eating | cookingwithcassandra.com

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