Cheesy, saucy comfort food! We love this recipe for a simple and delicious vegetarian baked penne. Just follow a few quick tips and tricks and you’ll have yummy baked goodness on your table in no time!
It’s time for some more amazing Italian food around here!
Can we have too many cheesy, saucy, satisfying Italian recipes? If your continuing love for Italian marinara sauce, pork shoulder ragu, traditional bolognese sauce, and ground beef skillet pasta says anything, the answer is a resounding NO. Instead, you’re saying I need to share more Italian comfort food!
You ask, and I shall answer.
Comfort Food Made Simple
I’ve actually had this recipe for a long time, but the original was much more complex. There were a few sauces, more ingredients and steps, and a lot more MORE to it, if you know what I mean. 🙂 Once I decided I wanted to share a baked pasta recipe with you all, I looked at that recipe and worked to streamline it.
Because the best go-to baked penne is going to be cheesy, comforting, simple, and delicious, while NOT using all the pots and pans in your kitchen.
In fact, I dare say this can be weeknight dinner for a night when you have just a little more time to spend. And you’ll be happy to slide the casserole dish onto the table at your next pot luck, holiday meal, or Sunday dinner.
What makes this recipe special?
Using soft and fresh burrata provides the perfect creamy top without having to make a bechamel sauce. Fresh mozzarella (at least the kind I can find) tends to get rubbery when heated, but the burrata warmed in the gentle heat as the pasta rests is gooey and creamy and stretchy.
What do you need?
- Penne – You’ll need one pound of penne. Or ziti or rigatoni. Your choice!
- Marinara Sauce – Use your favorite jarred sauce or make your own, just have 5 cups on hand.
- Cheese – This is a three cheese casserole: mozzarella, parmesan, and burrata.
- Basil – A must is plenty of fresh sliced basil.
How to make this
To make simple vegetarian baked penne, combine parboiled penne with marinara sauce, shredded cheese, and basil. Bake until the cheese is melted and pasta is cooked through. Top with more cheese and basil.
1. Prep the Ingredients
To get everything organized you will need to: parboil the penne, heat the sauce, shred the cheese, and slice the basil.
2. Combine in a Casserole Dish
It’s good to mix it before I spread it out in the casserole dish, so pour the penne back in the pot and add everything else. Then stir and into the casserole.
Note: Don’t forget to add some pasta water! You’ll need that extra liquid to keep it from getting dry.
Now cover and bake for about 30 minutes.
4. Top with Burrata
Out of the oven and add the burrata to the top. Recover it and let the dish sit on the counter until the topped is gooey and soft.
Can it be made ahead?
Baked penne (or baked ziti) can be assembled ahead of time and either refrigerated overnight or tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 2 months. Once you have prepped the ingredients and mixed everything together in the casserole dish, cover and store.
From the fridge: Cover with aluminum foil. Then put in a preheated 400F oven for 40-50 minutes. The sauce will be bubbly and the cheese melted.
From the freezer: Defrost the pasta until thawed in the refrigerator (usually about 1 day). Then cover with aluminum foil and bake as above for 40 minutes.
Either way, you will add the burrata when it comes out of the oven.
Note: The burrata does not reheat well. Don’t add it until your pasta is hot and you are ready to serve.
If you try my recipe for Vegetarian Baked Penne, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Vegetarian Baked Penne with Burrata
- kosher salt, for the water
- 5 cups marinara sauce
- 4 oz (~1 cup) shredded low-moisture mozzarella,
- 1 oz shredded parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 16 oz penne, or other tube pasta such as ziti and rigatoni
- 8 oz burrata cheese
- 2 tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
- Heat the oven to 400F. Pull out a 9x13 inch baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While you are waiting, get everything else prepped.
- Heat the marinara sauce on medium high and bring it to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep it hot.
- Shred the cheese and slice the basil. Add them both to a large bowl.
- Add the penne to the boiling water and parcook for 5 minutes. (Pasta will still be firm.)
- Scoop out 1 cup of water from the pot and then drain the pasta.
- Add the pasta and reserved water to the bowl along with the marinara sauce..
- Give everything a good stir to evenly distribute the cheese and basil.
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through and the sauce is bubbling.
- Remove from the oven. Uncover the dish and break up the burrata over the dish so that the cheese is spread out over the top. Recover the baking dish.
- Let rest for 10 minutes. Then uncover and top with more basil. Serve.
- Burrata: Since the burrata is softened by the heat of the pasta, be sure to work quickly while topping the dish with it. You don't need to be completely even, just have good coverage over most of the dish.
- Pasta: There are a number of short tube shapes which would be great in this recipe. Ziti, rigatoni, and mostaccioli are other choices.
- Make ahead: Make the recipe up through step 8. Then pour everything into the baking dish, wrap it well, and either store in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer for up to two months. To cook take the cold pasta (if frozen, thaw overnight), cover with foil and bake for 40-50 minutes. Continue with the recipe as written.
- Marinara Sauce: You can use a fresh sauce, such as my Italian Marinara, or your favorite bottled sauce.