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Easy Baked Penne – this easy pasta casserole is FULL of cheese! It’s accidentally vegetarian and no one will know it’s semi-homemade! This is one of the best easy baked pasta recipe I’ve ever made.

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Scooping out Baked Penne out of blue casserole dish.

Easy Baked Penne Recipe

Years ago I had a friend who introduced me to this easy baked pasta recipe. She made it for a 4th of July barbecue one time and we sat eating it for hours. I’ve been making it for potlucks and family dinners ever since.

When I researched baked penne pasta recipes online before making it, I found that so many of them have meat in them. I thought that was strange, because I’ve only ever had THIS Baked Penne, which is vegetarian. My friend didn’t eat meat, so neither did her pasta recipe. As a result, I’ve always made this without meat. And you know what? I don’t miss the meat at all – plus I often serve it with a side of baked or grilled chicken or some meatballs for protein. After all, it makes a HUGE batch, so we’re often eating it at a potluck.

The recipe is easy, using just a handful of ingredients, and comes together in minutes. Plus, do you see how cheesy this baked penne is??? OMG.

Baked Penne on a small plate with a silver fork with a side of grated cheese.

Secret Ingredients

There are two secret ingredients in this baked penne pasta. Can you guess what they are? They’re two things I’d never seen in a pasta recipe before, but they make the end result so cheesy and creamy I just never leave them out.

By the way, these two ingredients, if they weird you out, are two things I never eat alone. I ONLY use them in recipes, like Cheesy Egg Casserole.

Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese. I KNOW! So weird in a baked pasta dish, right? BUT, hear me out.

The cottage cheese adds body (and protein) to the dish. You don’t taste it at all, plus it makes it even more cheesy. There’s TONS of mozzarella to make you forget about the cottage cheese, but this dish wouldn’t be as good without it.

Sour cream adds so much creaminess to this easy baked penne recipe. This result is almost like a creamy tomato sauce.

What other ingredients are there? Just pasta, pasta sauce, and garlic. You can use any jarred pasta sauce you like (I’ve used a variety of brands). OR, you can make your own red sauce. I love these recipes for easy homemade marinara sauce, this vodka sauce, and this spicy pomodoro sauce.

I always kick it up by adding TONS (5 cloves) of pressed garlic. If you’re not a garlic lover, you can leave that out, but it gives a wonderful flavor to the dish. (Plus, it wards off vampires.) Then you add tons of cheese and bake it up.

photo collage - Easy Baked Penne in a blue casserole dish. And baked penned in a small serving dish.

How to Make Easy Baked Penne

  1. Cook and drain the pasta. This is a great use for leftover pasta!
  2. Stir together the sauce, cheeses, and garlic.
  3. Stir in the pasta and place it in the pan. Add more cheese!
  4. Bake until bubbly and golden.

This dish is good from the oven, but I also eat it for days leftover, and I’ve even frozen leftovers. It feeds a lot of people so it’s perfect for a big family or a party. And you won’t miss the meat, although you can add some if you like (see note).

Enjoy!

Easy Baked Penne Pasta Casserole in a blue casserole dish and a fork full being lifted out of the dish

Easy Baked Penne

3.74 from 201 votes
Easy Baked Penne – this easy pasta casserole is FULL of cheese! It’s accidentally vegetarian and no one will know it’s semi-homemade!
Yield 8 -10 servings
Serving Size 1 /8th of casserole

Ingredients
 

  • 1 12-16 ounce box penne pasta
  • 1 jar 24 ounce pasta sauce (and brand/flavor you like)
  • 8 ounces cottage cheese low fat is fine
  • 8 ounces sour cream low fat is fine
  • 5 cloves garlic pressed
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella divided
  •  

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions then drain well.
  • In a bowl or in the pasta pan, stir together pasta sauce, cottage cheese, sour cream, and garlic. Stir in pasta, then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese.
  • Spread pasta in a 9×13” baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups cheese on top.
  • Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the pasta is hot all the way through and cheese is melted. Serve hot. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe Nutrition

Serving: 1/8th of casserole | Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 859mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g
Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

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If you like this you’ll also like Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake, Baked Pasta with Sausage, Mushroom, and Spinach, and Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Baked Pasta.

Last Updated on December 28, 2021

Dorothy Kern

Welcome to Crazy for Crust, where I share recipes that are sometimes crazy, often with a crust, and always served with a slice of life.

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30 Comments

  1. This is the BEST recipe!!! It was my first time making a roux and I was very scared I’d burn the roux but the directions made it super easy ! Instead of Panko crumbs I decided to use Italian bread crumbs on top and it was still wonderful! Cheeses I used were sharp cheddar, Parmesan, provolone & mozzarella. Definitely going to try it with panko crumbs next time for a little more crunch. Thank you for this super easy & QUICK recipe!

  2. This is the best, most versatile pasta dish ever!! I use it as a base for a variety of dishes, dependent on what we have in the house. I never change anything, I only add. I’ve had it as is, I’ve added chicken, ham, different vegetables, etc. it doesn’t matter what I add, the dish always turns out amazing! It’s super quick and easy and totally freezable. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Amazing!!! This is my first time trying it and this will now become my go to pasta meal!! Super creamy and cheesy 😋would highly recommend.

  4. This was wonderful! I got a lot of compliments on it. I swapped ricotta cheese for the cottage cheese and used plain nonfat greek yogurt in place of sour cream because that was all I had. This was super delicious and easy to throw together in a short amount of time. Highly recommend!

  5. This has become our go-to for yummy baked pasta. Add in some spinich or your favorite vegi meat for some added flavor and color. Two thumbs up!

  6. It was so good. Wasn’t able to get mozzarella, but I had leftover Mexican cheese, so I used it, and it was amazing. Will definitely make again.

  7. I love this recipe! I made it for my family last night and everyone loved it! My family are all such picky eaters that normally a great dish is just something that everyone ate, but they were all coming back for seconds! Definitely going to make this again 🙂

  8. My kids went CRAZY for this recipe! I did cook add a some meatballs and cut them up. I have looked a long time for a good yet easy baked penne recipe and finally found it. Thank you so much! ❤️