Best Baked Pasta Recipes

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Baked Macaroni and Cheese in red baking dish.

A baked pasta dish, whether it’s stuffed shells, lasagna, baked ziti, or another type of pasta, is a thing of beauty. Somehow, these casseroles are more substantial than a non-baked pasta dish, perfect for make-ahead dinners, kid-friendly, portable, and buffet-ready. I turn to baked pasta recipes over and over again for weeknight dinners and easy entertaining, especially during the colder months.

I’ve made baked macaroni and cheese for a main course or dish for friends more times than I can count. Lasagnas are one of my go-to meals for big crowds, and my family loves to see a cheesy beefy baked pasta dish on the table in a big way. And there are lots of vegetarian options, too! Plus, leftovers heat up like a dream.

So many reasons to love a baked pasta dish and so many ways to make them!

Fork cutting Turkey Lasagna on a plate.
Turkey Lasagna

Best Baked Pasta Recipes: hearty, substantial, make ahead, crowd-pleasing – there are so many reasons to love a baked pasta dinner.

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When to Make a Baked Pasta

Here are some of the times I lean right into a baked pasta. When:

  • Friends are coming over after a winter hike or a ski day.
  • I need something to freeze and defrost for a hands-off dinner.
  • We need a full-on comfort food meal.
  • There is leftover pasta or meat sauce.
  • I have a lot of shredded cheese on hand.
  • I want a main course that also functions as a side dish, and vice versa.
  • I have to bring something substantial to a potluck party.
  • A friend needs a meal dropped off for any number of reasons.
  • I want to have people over and really don’t want to mess with last-minute cooking, but rather be hanging out with friends (this is the big one!).
Sprinkling chiffonaded basil over Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce in casserole dish.
Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

Baked Pastas Tips

  • Pick a chunky pasta. – Longer noodle-y pastas sometimes work, but they can overcook more easily, so I usually like a thicker, chunkier shape.
  • Use a noodle with ridges (rigate). – The little ridges help hold the sauce.
  • Slightly undercook your pasta before baking. – The pasta will continue to cook in the heat once combined with the other ingredients before baking and absorb the sauce that it’s cooked with, so you want to leave room for it to become perfectly tender and also more flavorful by absorbing more flavor as it absorbs the sauce while baking in the oven. 
  • Keep the salt in check. – Think about the amount of salt in all of the components of the dish. You should definitely salt your pasta cooking water, but then keep that in mind when you are salting the sauce and any other components in the dish. The salt level should be just right when all of the elements of the dish come together.
  • Broil the baked pasta. – Consider giving it a minute or two under the broiler at the end. If you like a more browned top crust, then a final minute or two under the broiler at the end might get you to where you want to be. Keep a close eye on the dish, though; it can go from golden brown to a little burnt in a matter of a minute.
  • Let it rest. – This allows the sauce to finish absorbing into the pasta, and if you are making a layered pasta, like a lasagna, it will also help keep those layers from slicing apart when you serve it. Plus, you won’t burn your tongue.
Woman arranged stuffed pasta shells in a baking dish.
Stuffed Shells

Make-Ahead, Storage, and Leftovers

Often, when cooking a baked pasta casserole, the make-ahead appeal is part of the allure!

  • Most baked pasta dishes can be assembled and then refrigerated for a day or two, covered, before baking and serving.
  • Many baked pastas can be baked ahead of time, then cooled and refrigerated for a couple of days before reheating and serving. Reheat in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes until hot throughout. Cover the pan with foil if you don’t want the top to get more browned, and perhaps lift off the foil for the last 5 minutes of baking to crisp up and brown the top a bit.
  • Leftovers also can be reheated, either in the main pan itself or in individual portions. I usually reheat leftovers in the pan in the oven. Most times, about 20 minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven is a good guideline. Individual portions of baked pasta can usually be reheated easily in the microwave for about 1 minute.
  • Most baked pastas are freezable, though those with dairy might be a bit more tricky. Having said that, macaroni and cheese freezes quite well. Look at the individual recipes to see if the casserole is better frozen in its unbaked state or after baking.
  • Some casseroles can be baked or reheated right from their frozen state. In that case, you usually want to keep the casserole covered with foil while baking; remove the foil for the final 10 minutes or so.
  • Most frozen baked pastas can be defrosted in the fridge for about 24 hours and then baked or reheated in the oven (depending on whether they were baked or not before freezing). Also, see How to Freeze and Defrost Casseroles for more information!

14 Best Baked Pasta Recipes

Baked Ziti in a skillet and on plates.
5 from 2 votes

Baked Ziti

Baked ziti is one of the all-time classic baked pasta dishes, and this is one of the best baked ziti recipes ever. Easier to pull together than a lasagna, but no less satisfying, this is the dinner that will pull everyone to the table. 
You can use any short tubular pasta, like penne or rigatoni, or you can also use a different short stubby shape, like orecchiette or farfalle. If you can find ziti pasta with the word “rigate” on the packaging, you’ll know it has ridges on the outside, which help the pasta get nicely coated with the sauce.
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Best Turkey Lasagna
5 from 2 votes

Best Turkey Lasagna

This is our go-to lasagna, made with a meat sauce that has a combo of ground turkey and turkey sausage in the sauce. I have made this more times than I can possibly count — a lasagna party gets very few regrets in the RSVP department.
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Spinach Goat Cheese Baked Pasta with Sunflower Seeds / Katie Workman / / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen
5 from 1 vote

Spinach Goat Cheese Baked Pasta with Sunflower Seeds

A very contemporary vegetarian casserole that can be served as a side or a main dish. The sunflower seeds will toast on top of the casserole, so no need to toast them ahead of time. You can also use hulled pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, or pine nuts; anything else you can think of to get a nice crunch going on the top to contrast with the creamy inside. 
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Beef and Three Cheese Noodle Casserole
4.84 from 6 votes

Beef and Three Cheese Noodle Casserole

When I want to have a money-back guarantee that dinner will make everyone happy, there are three ingredients that always add up to a perfect meal: Ground beef. Pasta. Cheese. Hey, I didn’t say these were three groundbreaking words; I just said there were three.
In the Midwest, this type of casserole might be called Johnny Marzetti, which is kind of awesome.
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Two plates and a baking dish of Chicken Tetrazzini on a white, wooden table.
5 from 8 votes

Chicken Tetrazzini

A savory casserole featuring spaghetti and chunks of tender chicken baked in a creamy, cheesy sauce. Sage and parsley brighten the dish, and a topping of melted Gruyere and a bit more Parmesan create a lovely crust that contrasts so perfectly with the comforting interior.
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Baked Macaroni and Cheese in red baking dish.
5 from 6 votes

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

The real deal, cheesy and rich, and baked with a gorgeous crunchy topping made with Panko breadcrumbs. This truly is a pasta that can serve as a side dish and/or a main course, even at the same meal!
Some good basic cheeses to start with are sharp or extra sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Swiss, Manchego, fontina, or any combination of these.
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Cheesy White and Green Spinach Lasagna / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /
4.67 from 3 votes

Cheesy White and Green Spinach Lasagna

Rich and creamy, filled with sautéed spinach, fluffy ricotta, simple béchamel sauce, and melty cheeses. This is a great spring lasagna.
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Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce / Katie Workman / / Photo by Cheyenne Cohen
5 from 1 vote

Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

A super solid, super satisfying cold weather pasta casserole — kind of a deconstructed lasagna. You can use any meat sauce (or even a vegetarian tomato sauce) in place of the Bolognese. Just make a simple green salad, and you are good to go.
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Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti
4.60 from 5 votes

Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti

This is pure Italian comfort food: Chicken Parmesan translated into a pasta casserole. You can definitely use a purchased rotisserie chicken in this pasta dish or any simply cooked chicken. 
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Baked Tortellini on a plate with spinach and bread.
5 from 3 votes

Baked Tortellini

This comforting casserole is so easy to make — faster than lasagna, but with that same level of baked pasta satisfaction. Tortellini may be stuffed with all kinds of ingredients, but a combo of meat and cheese is the most common. You will, however, find lots of varieties to choose from in well-stocked supermarkets, and this is a very easy casserole to keep vegetarian as well.
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Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells / Sarah Crowder / Katie Workman /
5 from 1 vote

Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Shells

This is a great alternative to tomato-based baked pasta dishes, and really, really pretty.
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Fresh Spinach Ravioli Lasagna
5 from 1 vote

Fresh Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

One of the little tricks I like to employ here is to use two different kinds of ravioli. This can give you added visual appeal (one spinach and one plain pasta ravioli, for instance). Also, if you mix and match different fillings, you can enjoy some variety as you eat, which is such an easy way to liven up a casserole.
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Stuffed Shells on a white plate.
5 from 1 vote

Ground Turkey Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells are one of the most substantially satisfying baked pasta dishes around. And they look and feel a little more special than other baked pastas, probably because there is some individual pasta stuffing involved. I like to use ground turkey instead of ground beef in the filling.
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Two plates with Turkey Tetrazzini and salad.
5 from 2 votes

Turkey Tetrazzini

Leftover turkey mixed with sautéed fresh mushrooms and a delightful cream sauce spiked with sherry, sage, and parsley is nestled under a cheesy, crunchy breadcrumb topping. If you have an image of turkey tetrazzini as boring, think again!
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More Pasta Recipes

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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