This simple 3-ingredient easy baked penne pasta recipe is classic, comforting, and full of gooey cheese. The perfect weeknight dinner!Jump to Recipe
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This week, we wanted to share one of our easiest recipes with you – seriously, it’s only three ingredients! As many of you probably know, juggling the demands of daily life and working a full-time job can be exhausting. So whenever a recipe like this comes around, we like to take full advantage of it. It’s super simple, relatively hands-off, and so delicious. Oh, and it’ll make about 6 servings, which means plenty of leftovers for dinner the next night.
Alex’s mom would often make baked ziti when he was growing up, and it’s been a staple of ours since he introduced me to her recipe. It’s gotten us through plenty of busy times, whether we make it for a few nights’ worth of dinners or prepare a whole batch to portion out into lunches for the work week. It’s literally the easiest and most delicious large-batch meal we make, and it only requires about 15 minutes of hands-on cooking time since it bakes in the oven!
We call our version “baked penne” because we’ve never actually made it with ziti. Both of us prefer penne, so it’s our go-to for this recipe. If you like a different kind of noodle, go ahead and switch it out – you just want to choose a short, tubular pasta.
Easy Baked Penne Ingredients
You can make this super easy baked penne pasta with just 3 store bought ingredients:
- Penne pasta
- Jarred pasta sauce
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
Choose your favorite jarred pasta sauce – any one will do for this recipe! We love a tomato & basil or roasted garlic flavor.
As for the cheese, shredded mozzarella gives you that classic Italian flavor, but you can also use a pizza blend or throw in some parmesan if you want. Since this recipe uses three basic ingredients, there’s a lot of room to customize it for your tastes.
How To Make Easy Penne Pasta Bake
The best part about this easy baked penne pasta recipe is that there is very little prep needed. Here’s how to assemble and make baked penne pasta in just 3 simple steps:
- Cook your pasta in boiling water for about 10 minutes (you want it a little underdone since it’ll cook more in the oven)
- Stir in some jarred pasta sauce and shredded mozzarella with the cooked pasta
- Transfer to a baking dish, top with shredded cheese, cover, and bake!
Boil pasta, mix ingredients, and bake. It really is that simple! It’s also a lifesaver on Sunday nights when we need to spend time meal-prepping for the week and cook dinner at the same time.
Make sure to cover the baking dish before putting it in the oven. This helps keep the cheese nice and gooey, while also preventing the pasta from drying out.
Storing & Reheating Leftovers
Since this baked penne pasta recipe makes a whole box of pasta, you will likely have leftovers. Cover any leftover pasta with aluminum foil in the baking dish (or in an airtight container) and it will be good for up to 5 days in the fridge. We love making this recipe in our OXO 9×13 glass baking dish since it has a lid for easy storage.
You can also portion out single servings to store in the fridge and grab for an easy lunch throughout the week.
Reheat single servings in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. Alternatively, if you are looking to reheat the remaining leftovers in the baking dish, you can put it back in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes or until warmed through.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need to boil pasta before baking?
Yes, you do for this recipe! But you can leave the pasta al dente as it will be cooked longer in the oven. If you were to make this baked pasta penne without boiling the pasta first, there would not be enough moisture for the pasta to soften while baking.
How do I spice up plain penne pasta?
Choosing the right pasta sauce is important for the flavor of baked penne pasta. A simple and cheap tomato sauce can leave the dish feeling a little plain, while a tomato and basil or roasted garlic flavored pasta sauce can really enhance the flavor. If you only have a plain pasta sauce, try adding some oregano, basil, or other Italian herbs for extra flavor. And if you like spice, red pepper flakes are always a great addition to an easy baked penne pasta.
Should pasta bake be covered or uncovered?
This pasta bake specifically is cooked covered in order to keep the pasta and cheese from browning too much or drying out. However, if you want the pasta to have a little crunch or want to brown the cheese, you can cook it uncovered for a little at the end (5 to 10 minutes or so).
What happens if you bake pasta?
Baking pasta is a fun way to change up an Italian dinner at home. By baking the pasta, you are drying out the noodles slightly to add a crispy crust to it. Also baking pasta is a great way to warm the pasta sauce and melt the cheese throughout the dish!
Can you use jarred pasta sauce for pasta bake?
Of course! Using jarred pasta sauce is one of the easiest ways to make pasta bake. Our only advice is to choose a high quality pasta sauce as it is very important to the flavor of the dish – see “How do I spice up plain penne pasta” for more information on making flavorful penne pasta.
Can I use penne instead of ziti for baked ziti?
Yes! As you can see, this recipe actually calls for penne instead of ziti, but it’s basically a “baked ziti” recipe. We just like the texture and shape of penne more than ziti.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This baked penne pasta is so cheesy, so warm, and so comforting – definitely one of those dishes that reminds you of your mom’s home cooking. That’s why it’s a great weeknight family dinner or big batch meal prep dish for the week. Next time you’re looking for a quick, easy, and comforting meal, this penne pasta bake is sure to hit the spot. Remember to rate, comment, and share below!
Love this recipe? You may enjoy these recipes, too:
- Pizza Pasta Bake
- Easy Baked Gnocchi For 2
- One Pot Spinach & Artichoke Pasta
- Spinach Tomato & Olive Oil Pasta
Easy Baked Penne
- Baking dish 9×13 or similar
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 24 ounces jarred pasta sauce tomato & basil or roasted garlic
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese divided
- First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Next, boil the pasta for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain and return the pasta to the empty pot, removing it from the heat.
- Add the pasta sauce to the pot and stir to coat the pasta well. Then add about two-thirds of the mozzarella cheese and stir well to combine.
- Next, lightly grease a large baking dish. Transfer the contents of the pot to the baking dish, spreading the pasta out evenly. Top with the remaining shredded cheese.
- Finally, loosely cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.