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This Baked Penne Casserole is a comforting crowd pleaser filled with layers of an easy homemade meat sauce, pasta with several cheeses and a whole lot of love! A great make ahead casserole that is also freezer friendly!
A good Italian inspired pasta dinner is just what everyone needs sometimes. This is a hearty dish with layers of pasta mixed with ricotta, an easy homemade meat sauce and lots of cheese. A very comforting dish that just makes everything better.
This post was originally posted on 7/24/2018 and updated on 8/09/2021.
Baked Penne Casserole Ingredients
- Penne Rigate
- Ground Beef
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Basil
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Shredded Italian Cheese Blend: Provolone, Romano, Parmesan, Asiago
- Shredded Mozzarella
- Dried Parsley
- Black Pepper
- Penne Rigate: Any medium cut pasta will work in this casserole: Ziti, Fusilli, Farfalle, Cavatappi, or Gemelli would all be delicious.
- Ground Beef: Ground Italian sausage or ground turkey would be good substitutes for the beef. Forget to defrost your protein? Make it without, it's still super yummy!
- Crushed Tomatoes & Seasonings: Feel free to use your favorite jarred pasta sauce if you like.
- Shredded Italian Cheese Blend: You can substitute with all Mozzarella or just use the cheese you like best. The blend of cheeses really makes a world of difference with flavor, I really recommend using a blend.
How to Make Baked Penne From Scratch
- First step, boil the penne pasta to al dente following the directions on the package.
- Next, in a large sauce pan combine the ground beef and onions and cook on medium heat until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft and translucent. Drain any grease if needed.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute.
- Stir in the crushed tomatoes and seasonings, and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, egg, 1 cup of Italian cheeses, 1 cup shredded Mozzarella, dried oregano, dried parsley, and black pepper.
- Add the cooked pasta, a little at a time, to the cheese mixture stirring to evenly coat the pasta.
- Next, stir in 3 cups of the meat sauce with the pasta and cheese.
- Now assemble the casserole by starting with a layer of the homemade meat sauce. Add ⅓ of the sauce (about 1 cup) to the bottom of a greased 9x13 deep casserole dish.
- Then layer half of the pasta on top of the sauce.
- Followed by ½ cup of the shredded Italian cheeses and ½ cup of Mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat layers: sauce (about 1 cup), remaining pasta, ½ cup shredded Italian cheese and remaining shredded Mozzarella cheese.
- Finish with the last of the pasta sauce and the shredded Italian cheeses.
- Bake the casserole uncovered at 375°F for 30 minutes until golden and bubbly.
- Let the casserole rest for 10 minutes before serving.
How to Store and Make Ahead Instructions
- Storing Leftovers: Store any leftover casserole in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezing Leftovers: To freeze any leftovers, let the casserole completely cool and then place it in freezer safe air tight containers. You can individually freeze portions for easy lunches and dinners. Label, date and freeze the casserole for up to 4 months.
- Make Ahead Instructions: This casserole can be fully assembled and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days until ready to bake. Then simply let the casserole come to room temperature and bake following recipe directions.
- Make Ahead Freezer Instructions: Cover the casserole tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then freeze it. It will last in the freezer for 4 months. To bake, take out the casserole the night before and let it thaw overnight in the fridge. Bake the casserole according to recipe directions adding 10-15 minutes cook time. If baking from frozen, bake the casserole covered with aluminum foil for 45 minutes and then uncovered for another 30-45 minutes until the casserole is warmed all the way through and bubbly.
I have a habit of making double of everything so I have meals available at all times. I like to make two casseroles and place the extra in the freezer for later. Not only for the busy nights when I'm crunched for time, but I also like to have meals like this Baked Penne Casserole on hand for when we have company over. I don't have spend my time making dinner, I just can pop it in the oven!
What to Serve with Baked Pasta
I like to serve a simple side salad or roasted veggie with some breadsticks or garlic bread with any pasta dish. Here are some of our favorites:
- Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Air Fryer Green Beans
- Easy Garlic Bread
- Garlic Parmesan Focaccia Bread
FAQs About Baked Penne Casserole
Baked penne pasta is a comforting and hearty pasta dish with layers of homemade meat sauce and pasta with several cheeses and then baked until golden, bubbly and perfect.
Yes, cook the pasta to al dente and no longer. Cooking the pasta any longer will make it mushy after it bakes in the oven.
If the baked penne is being baked right after assembly, bake it uncovered for 30 minutes until hot and bubbly. If the pasta dish is being baked from frozen, bake it covered for the first 45 minutes and uncovered for the remaining 30-45 minutes.
Other Comforting Casseroles:
- Mexican Lasagna
- Chicken & Noodles
- Tator Tot Hotdish
- Scalloped Potatoes & Ham
- Turkey Pot Pie with Puff Pastry
Baked Penne Casserole
- 1 lb Penne Rigate, cooked to almost al dente
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Grease a deep 9x13 casserole dish.
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions.
- In a large sauce pan, brown beef and onion until beef is no longer pink and onions are soft and translucent. Drain any grease if needed.
- Add minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant.
- Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes to the beef mix and simmer on low for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix together Ricotta cheese, egg, 1 cup of the Italian cheese, 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese, oregano, parsley, and black pepper.
- Add the drained cooked pasta, a little at a time, to the cheese mix and fold it together to evenly coat all the pasta.
- Add about 3 cups of the meat sauce to the pasta and cheese and fold together to combine well.
- Place ⅓ of the remaining sauce (about 1 cup) in the bottom of the casserole dish.
- Top sauce with half of the pasta mix, ½ cup Italian cheese and ½ cup Mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat layer: sauce (about 1 cup), remaining pasta mix, ½ cup Italian shredded cheese and remaining shredded Mozzarella cheese.
- Top with the remaining sauce and shredded Italian cheese blend.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
- Let stand 10 minutes before serving.