This dish is just so easy to make it almost feels like you’re cheating. But I find it so amazing how a baked pasta (even one with a very quick baking time, like this one) makes this dish so many better than simply cooked tortellini with sauce and cheese on top. The cheeses get melty, and the sauce and the pasta meld together in such a satisfying way after baking.
This is a terrific weeknight pasta casserole and can be frozen for months, so it’s perfect for meal planning. Serve the tortellini casserole with Garlic Bread and a Mixed Green Salad for a complete dinner.
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Baked Tortellini: This comforting casserole is so easy to make, faster than lasagna, but with that same level of baked pasta satisfaction.Tweet This
What Are Tortellini?
Tortellini (pronounced tore-tuh-LEE-nee) is a stuffed pasta in the shape of a ring that looks like a small wonton. The origin of this type of stuffed pasta is the Emilia region of Italy, though tortellini are also popular in Bologna and Moderna. 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.
If you have a specialty grocery store or Italian market in your area, and you can find homemade tortellini, snap those up. Made right, they will have texture and flavor that is head and shoulders above the packaged pasta, though the packaged pasta is also quite good. You may also find more unusual filling combinations, like ones with lobster or unusual squashes or cheeses. Tortelloni (with an “o”) are larger, about twice as big, than tortellini. They are usually filled with ricotta and parsley or spinach.
- Tortellini – You have choices both in flavor and how the tortellini is sold. I prefer refrigerated tortellini, which I think has the best texture. However, you can also use shelf-stable tortellini or frozen tortellini. Just make sure to cook it until al dente according to the package directions.
- Marinara sauce – Use homemade marinara or your favorite jarred version…either works.
- Fresh spinach – Adding nutritious veggies to an otherwise indulgent casserole is always a good idea.
- Fresh parsley – Flat-leaf (aka Italian) parsley is always the better option when adding the herb to a dish. Curly parsley is best reserved as a garnish.
- Fresh oregano – If you don’t have the fresh herb, dried oregano will do.
- Mozzarella and Parmesan – This cheesy duo is the perfect touch for any Italian dish.
I like to use cheese tortellini most of the time to keep the dish vegetarian. There are so many cheese tortellini varieties to choose from. Other vegetarian tortellini options might include mushroom, butternut squash, spinach, or artichoke (sometimes also mixed with some sort of cheese). And if you want to go for a meat variety, look for options like pork, beef, mortadella, veal, and prosciutto.
Cooked crumbled sausage, shredded cooked chicken or pork, slivered salami, or pepperoni can also be added to this casserole if you’re not looking to keep it vegetarian.
Boiling Tortellini Before Baking
Some people choose to skip this step, and you can have success with just baking uncooked tortellini in the sauce. However, I think that boiling it first gives everything a better texture and bite. And cooking the tortellini basically takes mere minutes. If you bring a pot of salted water to a boil while you gather and prep your ingredients for this casserole, the tortellini will be done by the time you need to add it to the sauce.
Because the tortellini is already cooked, the baking time is fairly short, basically just enough time to heat it through and melt the cheese.
How To Make Baked Tortellini
- Prep the oven and dish: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-inch square or 1 ½ quart baking dish.
- Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain well.
- Toss the ingredients: In a large bowl, combine the cooked tortellini, marinara sauce, spinach, parsley, oregano, half the mozzarella, and half the Parmesan cheese.
- Fill the dish and add cheese: Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and the Parmesan on top.
- Bake and serve: Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted, the sauce is bubbling around the edges, and everything is heated through. If you want a more browned top, finish the casserole under the broiler for a minute or two, watching carefully so that it doesn’t brown too much. Serve hot.
You can make this casserole up to the point of baking, then cover it with foil, and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Bring it to room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour before baking, or if you are baking it straight from the fridge, add 15 to 20 minutes of baking time.
You can freeze this casserole either before baking or after. Either way, cover the top of the casserole with aluminum foil and then slide it into a large freezer proof sealable bag, or wrap the whole thing well in more foil. Freeze for up to 4 months. Thaw the tortellini in the fridge for 24 hours before bringing to room temp and then baking.
You can reheat the casserole in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until warmed through. Or heat individual or larger portions in the microwaves. The timing will depend on the size of the piece, anywhere from 45 seconds to 2 minutes.
What to Serve With Baked Tortellini
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- 1 (16 to 20 ounce) package cheese tortellini (or any variety)
- 2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or store-bought)
- 2 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach
- ¼ cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella (fresh, packaged, or smoked; divided)
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan (divided)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil an 8-inch square or 1 ½ quart baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Drain well.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked tortellini, marinara sauce, spinach, parsley, oregano, half the mozzarella, and half the Parmesan cheese. Transfer the tortellini mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella and the Parmesan on top. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted, the sauce is bubbling around the edges, and everything is heated through. If you want a more browned top, finish the casserole under the broiler for a minute or two, watching carefully so that it doesn’t brown too much. Serve hot.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.