Penne Pasta Bake

This Penne Pasta Bake is a comforting and delicious recipe that combines cooked penne pasta with a rich, beefy marinara sauce, and a cheesy topping. Baked until bubbly and golden, the result is a satisfying and hearty meal that’s perfect for gatherings or cozy weeknight dinners.

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A wooden spoon scooping penne pasta bake from a casserole dish.

This ground beef pasta casserole is a family favorite. For more dinner recipes using ground beef try this Tex Mex Casserole or this tasty Picadillo. Check out all of these Healthy Dinner recipes for more inspiration.

Why YOU will love this recipe

  • This penne pasta bake is easy to prepare, making it a popular option for home cooks. Who doesn’t love easy dinner recipes with minimal prep time on a busy weeknight?
  • This dish tends to reheat well, making it a practical choice for leftovers. The flavors can sometimes even deepen and improve after sitting overnight, making the leftovers just as enjoyable as the initial meal.
  • The combination of pasta, mixed with ground beef sauce, and melty cheese is universally appealing, making it a huge crowd-pleaser at gatherings and potlucks.
A wooden spoon scooping penne pasta bake from a casserole dish.

Ingredients

  • dry penne pasta – we like the ridges of penne to grab up and hold onto all of the rich sauce. Other good noodles for this recipe include rigatoni and ziti.
  • olive oil and butter – use both to add flavor and to prevent the oil from burning.
  • ground beef – also known as minced beef or hamburger meat, we usually choose lean or extra lean ground beef.
  • onion – get ready to cry! You’ve got chopping to do.
  • fresh parsley – we love the fresh, clean taste. You can use other fresh herbs as a substitute such as fresh basil
  • garlic cloves – the savory and slightly pungent taste complements the richness of both the sauce and the cheese.
  • marinara sauce – choose a sauce you know you like. We don’t recommend using plain tomato sauce as it doesn’t add enough flavor to the casserole.
  • shredded cheese – we use a mix of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
  • fine sea salt and pepper – everything is better seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. It is a simple step and so delicious.
Ingredients on a counter.

Equipment

  • large pot for making the sauce and another pot to boil the pasta in.
  • large casserole dish – use an 8×11 ceramic baking dish or larger.

Instructions

Step 1

First, start by heating the oven to 375 and lightly greasing the casserole dish. Set it aside.

Step 2

Next, cook the pasta in boiling salted water for ten minutes. You want the pasta to be slightly undercooked as the noodles will continue to cook and soften when the pasta bakes in the oven.

Drain the pasta, leave it in the strainer, and set aside.

Step 3

Meanwhile, while the pasta water is boiling and cooking, make the sauce.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir.

Keep stirring intermittently and cook until softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and stir for one more minute.

Onions cooking in a pan.

Step 4

Next, add the ground beef to the pot with the cooked onions and garlic and stir.

Cook until the meat is browned and thoroughly cooked through.

Beef being cooked in a pot.

Step 5

Next, add the marinara sauce to the pot with the cooked beef and onion mixture and stir.

Add the chopped parsley and stir again.

Let the sauce simmer in the pan over medium-low heat for another five minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust to your liking.

Fresh parsley being stirred into a pot of sauce.

Step 6

Then, stir in the cooked pasta.

Using a large spoon, mix until the noodles are coated with the sauce.

A spoon stirring noodles with sauce in a large pot.

Step 6

Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.

Sauce and noodles mixture in a baking dish covered in shredded cheese.

Step 7

Finally, cover the dish with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes until bubbling.

If you prefer a crispy top, remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking or turn the oven to broil and crisp up the cheese.

Baked pasta casserole in a dish.

Step 8

Then, let the baked penne pasta rest in the dish for five minutes.

Serve warm!

Expert tip

Be sure to liberally salt the water you cook the pasta in.

This will season the pasta while it cooks and really enhances the flavor.

A wooden spoon scooping penne pasta bake from a casserole dish.

Want a pasta dinner but not baked? Try this authentic Italian Spaghetti Sauce. It is always a family favorite.

Recipe variations

  • Experiment with a different protein instead of beef such as Italian sausage. Or try ground turkey or chicken are both great options for a lighter meat option.
  • Boost the veggies in this penne pasta bake by adding chopped mushrooms and spinach to the mixture at the same time as you add the garlic.
  • Spice it up by adding a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
  • Make an extra rich version by adding a couple of tablespoons of ricotta cheese to the pasta mixture before baking.

Serving suggestions

  • Serve the penne pasta bake alongside a Caesar salad and some garlic bread for a restaurant-style experience.
  • A light soup, such as homemade tomato soup, can be a nice starter to the meal and add an extra layer of warmth and comfort.
  • Lightly steamed or roasted vegetables can balance out the meal and provide some added nutrition. Broccoli, asparagus, or green beans, served up on the side make a complete meal.

FAQS

What’s the difference between a pasta bake and a casserole?

A pasta bake typically refers to a dish that centers around pasta and is baked with a sauce and cheese. A casserole is a more general term for a dish that’s cooked and served in the same dish.

How do I prevent my pasta bake from being dry?

To avoid a dry baked casserole, make sure your pasta is coated with enough sauce before baking. We also cover the dish with foil during part of the baking process which helps to retain moisture.

Storage and reheating tips

  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Cover the dish when you reheat it to prevent it from drying out.
A wooden spoon scooping penne pasta bake from a casserole dish.

More dinner casserole ideas

A baking dish with chicken broccoli cauliflower casserole.

Chicken Broccoli Potato Casserole

A spoon of cauliflower chicken casserole.

Cauliflower Chicken Casserole

a casserole dish with tex mex beef casserole

Tex Mex Casserole

Egg Casserole with Sweet Potato and Spinach

If you’ve tried our  Easy Baked Penne Recipe, please rate the recipe and let us know how it turned out by leaving me a comment below. I’m always interested in feedback!

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As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

A wooden spoon scooping penne pasta bake from a casserole dish.

Penne Pasta Bake

Sharon Rhodes
This Penne Pasta Bake is a comforting and delicious recipe that combines cooked penne pasta with a rich, beefy marinara sauce, and a cheesy topping. Baked until bubbly and golden, the result is a satisfying and hearty meal that's perfect for gatherings or cozy weeknight dinners.
5 from 62 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting time 5 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 504 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups dry penne noodles
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 25 oz. jar marinara sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheese *we like a combo of parmesan and mozzarella

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 375° and lightly grease an 8×11 or 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and then cook the pasta for 10 minutes. You want the noodles to be slightly undercooked as they will soften further in the oven. Drain the noodles, leave them in the strainer, and set them aside.
  • While the pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions, season them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook them until they have softened – about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir for another minute.
  • Add the ground beef to the pot and cook it through, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks and browns,
  • Then, add the marinara sauce to the pot and stir. Sprinkle in the parsley and stir again. Let the sauce simmer for another five minutes on low heat, stirring a few times. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Next, stir in the cooked pasta. Mix until the noodles are coated.
  • Then, pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese. Cover the dish with foil.
  • Finally, bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. If you like a crispy top leave the foil off for the last 5 minutes of baking or turn the oven to broil to crisp up the cheese.
  • Remove from the oven and let the dish sit for five minutes, then serve warm.

Video

Notes

Storage and reheating tips

  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Cover the dish when you reheat it to prevent it from drying out.

Nutrition

Calories: 504kcalCarbohydrates: 59gProtein: 33gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 434mgPotassium: 494mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 430IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 175mgIron: 3mg
Keyword penne pasta bake
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16 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Now that it’s back to school time I’m so glad to have found this recipe, it was so easy to pop into the oven while I helped my kids with their homework. I liked how cheesy it came out, and my littles didn’t even notice I snuck some diced veggies in too hehe.

  2. 5 stars
    This was quite delicious. My kids all loved it!!
    I added some extra cheese because they all love the cheesy top when i make pasta bakes.
    There were no leftovers! We ate the whole thing.
    Going to try it again with some ground pork that I have in the deep freeze.
    THNAK YOU

    1. I bet this would taste delicious using pork! Great way to use up what is in the freezer too. I love that. Thanks Louise!

  3. 5 stars
    We love pasta dishes! This turned out so good, made it for a busy weeknight when we had soccer practice and it was a hit with all the teenagers!

  4. 5 stars
    This pasta bake was tasty. My kids love it. I didn’t use penne as I didn’t have that. I used ziti instead. Yummy.

  5. 5 stars
    I made this pasta bake today and I love how it turned out. It’s so delicious and gives us generous portions. So I’m keeping the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Save me from cooking again.

  6. 5 stars
    This is just like a dish my mom used to make, but I never got the recipe for. I’m so happy to be able to share it with my family too. Thanks.

  7. 5 stars
    This was a delicious pasta bake! I used Rao’s marinara sauce and 6-cheese Italain blend. Perfectly cheesy and full of flavor!

  8. 5 stars
    What a delicious and comforting casserole for a busy week night. We substituted extra firm tofu for the ground beef due to accommodate food allergies at our house, and it was super yummy.

  9. 5 stars
    I couldn’t find my old recipe for this classic dish but I’m so glad I stumbled upon this one. It’s much better than the penne pasta bake I used to make.

  10. 5 stars
    Pasta dishes are always a win at my house and leftovers are great too! Double win. Thanks for the easy recipe to add to my regular rotation!

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