While I love a good, loose pasta with sauce, Tim is mildly obsessed with the hearty, cheesy, and slightly crusty baked version. And, he’s right, there’s something about that slightly different texture and stringy, melty goodness of a baked pasta.
Even better, baked pastas are great for making ahead. Sure, you can bake them right away, but they’re just as good prepped ahead and refrigerated for a day, or even frozen for a day down the road when you don’t have the time to cook.
When making baked pasta, moisture levels in the sauce are key. Some recipes will have you start with cooked noodles, in which case the sauce needs to be a bit thicker. But, boiling the pasta just seems like an unnecessary step to us. We eliminate the extra prep by using dry pasta and a thinner sauce.
But, using cooked or uncooked noodles, making baked pasta can be a bit of an art. We’ve found there are three keys to a perfect (and easy) baked pasta.
Covering while baking traps in the moisture, giving it nowhere to go but into the dry noodles. Your pasta is done when you can insert a knife smoothly into the center of the dish.
Uncovering to finish the dish for a final 15 minutes of baking ensures the top layer of cheese gets nice and golden (And, it means the cheese won’t stick to the foil. Because, let’s face it, there’s nothing more disappointing than when you take the foil off of a baked pasta dish and all that cheese comes right off with it.)
Resting the dish on the counter for 10 minutes before serving will let the pasta absorb any remaining moisture. Tent it loosely with foil if the pasta looks fairly dry, but leave it uncovered (to steam) if the dish seems too moist.
- 1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, un-drained
- 1 (6oz) can tomato paste
- 2 ¼ tsp onion powder
- 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp marjoram
- ½ tsp basil
- ½ tsp parsley
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ c water
- ½ c red wine
- ½ lb ziti pasta, dry
- ½ lb meatballs (pre-cooked) (Make your own using this recipe.)
- 1 c mozzarella cheese
- Preheat your oven to 400?F.
- In a medium saucepan, mix tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices. Add water and wine, and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered over medium heat for 5 minutes.
- In a greased 8x8 pan, spread 1 c of the sauce. Top with half of the dry pasta. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the pasta. Nestle all of the meatballs into the sauce. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella cheese over the meatballs. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the cheese. Layer the remaining pasta over the sauce. Finally, spread the last 1 c of sauce over the pasta.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until you start to see bubbles forming around the edges.*
- Remove the dish from the oven and top with the last ½ cup of cheese.
- Return the dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the dish is bubbly to the center.
- Remove the dish from the oven. Tent it loosely with aluminum foil and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Casseroles and baked pastas are the perfect dishes when you’re short on time, and today the Sunday Supper crew is sharing over 40 casseroles to stock your freezer. Thanks to Alice of A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen for hosting this week.
Captivating Breakfast Casseroles
- Boozy Baked French Toast from Brunch with Joy
- Orange & Date Wife Saver Breakfast Casserole from A Mama, Baby & Shar-pei in the Kitchen
- Spinach, Sausage and Polenta Breakfast Casserole from The Redhead Baker
Appetizing Casserole Sides
- Baked Cauli-Tots Casserole from Cupcake and Kale Chips
- Shredded Brussels Sprouts Casserole from Take A Bite Out of Boca
Main Event Casseroles
- Artichoke and Spinach Macaroni and Cheese Casserole from Ruffles & Truffles
- Baked Penne with Roasted Cauliflower and Italian Sausage from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Bison Meatloaf Casserole from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
- Cheesy Chicken Corkscrew Casserole from Recipes Food and Cooking
- Cheesy, Creamy, Cauliflower and Sausage Casserole from Eating In Instead
- Chicken Parmesan Quinoa Bake from Alida’s Kitchen
- Chicken Ramen Mini Casseroles from The Ninja Baker
- Chicken with Whole Grains Casserole from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Chinese Noodle Casserole from Momma’s Meals
- Crab Casserole for Two from Magnolia Days
- Homemade Poppy Seed Chicken from Food Done Light
- King Ranch Casserole from The Texan New Yorker
- Baked Ziti with Meatballs from Curious Cuisiniere
- Mexican Lasagna from MealDiva
- Moroccan Polenta Casserole from Pancake Warriors
- Moussaka from Nosh My Way
- Neeps & Tatties Casserole from Happy Baking Days
- Quick No Boil Tuna Pasta Bake from Mess Makes Food
- Sausage Peppers and Onion Pasta Casserole from Family Foodie
- Southwestern Spaghetti Pie from The Messy Baker
- Cheesy, Layered Italian Pasta Torta from La Bella Vita Cucina
- Stove-top Four Cheese Mac and Cheese from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
- Taco Casserole from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Decadent Dessert and Sweet Casseroles
- The Best Homemade Cinnamon Rolls from Pies and Plots
- Butterscotch Bread Pudding from The Foodie Army Wife
- Classic Apple Crisp from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Ultimate Deep Dish Brownies from Recipe for Perfection
- Vegan Oreo Rice Krispie Treats from Killer Bunnies, Inc
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