This Baked Penne Pasta Recipe is a delicious and comforting one pan dinner made by mixing cooked penne pasta, marinara sauce, Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Everything is combined and layered in a casserole pan and then oven baked for a delicious dinner!
This easy-to-make pasta bake recipe features a delicious marinara sauce and an abundance of cheese, making it an ideal dinner option for any night of the week. If you’re a fan of pasta and in search of a fuss-free dinner idea, you’ve found it! This penne pasta bake is bound to become a new favorite in your recipe collection.
This baked penne recipe is similar to a lasagna because of the layers of sauce, cheese, meat and pasta. It just doesn’t take quite as much time as a labor intensive lasagna!
Ingredients & Subs
You just need a few simple ingredients to pull together this Baked Penne Recipe. Here are some tips on a few ingredients, plus some variations to try.
Italian Sausage: This baked penne pasta recipe calls for ground mild or hot Italian sausage. However feel free to use whatever sausage or beef your family likes. You could sub out the sausage with some of these options:
- Ground beef
- ground Italian turkey sausage
- a 50/50 mix of ground beef and ground Italian sausage
Marinara Sauce: I use our family favorite Rao’s Marinara, but feel free to use whatever jarred marinara sauce flavor your family likes (or that you have in your pantry): mushroom, tomato basil, hearty vegetable. You could even try it with an alfredo sauce!
Ricotta Cheese: I recommend using a whole milk ricotta cheese. It tends to be creamier and more flavorful. If you don’t love ricotta cheese you can always try subbing in a 4% or 2% cottage cheese.
Mozzarella Cheese: As with all recipes that have shredded cheese, we recommend that you fresh shred the cheese. It will melt creamier because it isn’t coated in anticlumping agents that prevent it from melting properly! If you can find whole milk mozzarella cheese to shred that is going to melt the creamiest and most delicious.
How to Make Baked Penne Pasta with Sausage
To start preheat the oven to 350 degrees, put a pot of salted water on to boil, and grab a 9×13 baking pan.
In a large skillet brown the sausage while crumbling. Drain any excess grease then add the 1 cup diced onions and 3 chopped garlic cloves. Saute until the onions begin to soften about 5-8 minutes.
Add the entire 24 oz. jar of marinara sauce and a drained 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes to the sausage/onion mixture. Give it a good stir to combine everything. Turn the heat off.
When the water starts to boil cook 1 lb. of penne pasta to al dente per package instructions. When the pasta is done RESERVE ½ CUP OF THE COOKING WATER. Drain the pasta and run cold water over the noodles to stop the cooking!
Pro Tip: Place a glass measuring cup in your colander and you won’t forget to reserve the pasta water!
In a small bowl mix the 15 oz. container of whole milk ricotta cheese with the 1 tsp. dried basil, 1 tsp. dried oregano. ½ tsp. garlic powder, ½ tsp. onion powder, and ½ tsp. kosher salt.
Pour HALF of the sauce mixture and the ½ cup reserved pasta water over the pasta and stir to coat. Reserve the other half of the sauce for assembling the dish.
Time to assemble the Penne Bake- Step by Step Pictures
In a 9×13 casserole dish pour half of the sauced penne pasta.
Top that with half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella cheese.
Pour half of the remaining sauce over top.
Add the remaining pasta over top.
Top with the remaining ricotta cheese, then the remaining sauce, and finish with all the remaining mozzarella cheese.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the cheese on top is melty.
Pro Tip: Spray the underside of the foil with non-stick spray so the cheese doesn’t stick to the foil!
Let the baked penne cool for about 5 minutes then serve with Caesar Salad or a Big Italian Salad and Garlic Bread.
Freezing Baked Penne
You can freeze this pasta bake and save it for later, just like you would a lasagna.
Assemble the dish completely in a freezer safe dish, but instead of baking it, let it cool in the fridge for 1 hour. Wrap the cooled dish completely with two layers of plastic wrap, going all the way around the bottom of the pan. Then cover in foil. You can freeze the pasta bake for up to 3 months.
Pro Tip: make sure to label the dish so you know what it is and when you frozen it!
When it is time to bake simply thaw in fridge over-night and then proceed with baking for 25 minutes covered with foil and then an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
More Delicious Italian Dinner Recipes
Baked Penne Pasta Recipe
- 1 lb penne pasta boil to a firm al dente in salted water, about 5 minutes. RESERVE ½ CUP OF THE COOKING WATER BEFORE DRAINING!
- 1 lb. mild or hot ground Italian Sausage cooked and crumbled
- 1 cup yellow onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves chopped
- 24 oz jarred marinara -we love Rao's
- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes drained
- ½ cup Reserved pasta cooking water
- 10 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon each: onion powder and garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated – whole milk is preferred but not necessary. (if using pre-shredded cheese you will need about 2 cups)
- Preheat the oven to 350°
Cook the Pasta
- Cook the penne pasta to al dente, per package instructions (should be about 5-7 minutes). You do not want to overcook the pasta at this point because it will continue to cook in the oven.1 lb penne pasta
- Reserve ½ cup of starchy pasta water.Run cold water over the pasta to stop the cooking and set aside.Pro Tip: place a glass measuring cup in your colander, that way you will not forget to reserve the starchy pasta cooking water!
- In a large skillet over medium heat cook/crumble the sausage. Drain any excess grease. Add the onions and garlic, sauté until they soften, about 5-7 minutes.1 cup yellow onion, 1 lb. mild or hot ground Italian Sausage, 3 garlic cloves
- Stir the entire jar of marinara and the drained tomatoes into the sausage mixture and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Set aside.24 oz jarred marinara, 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
- In a sperate bowl stir together the ricotta cheese with the spices/herbs.10 oz. container whole milk ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon each: onion powder and garlic powder, ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine HALF of the sausage marinara sauce mixture and the ½ cup of reserved pasta water with all of the cooked pasta. Stir to coat.note: if you forgot to reserve the pasta water, just use tap water.
- Pour half of the sauced pasta into the bottom of your 9×13 casserole pan.
- Dot with half of the ricotta mixture.Spread half of the mozzarella cheese over top.Top with half of the remaining sausage marinara sauce.
- Pour in the remaining sauced pasta.Finally, top with the remaining ricotta cheese, all the remaining sausage marinara sauce, and finish with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Pro Tip: the dish can be frozen at this point. See the notes below.
- Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the cheese is melty. Pro Tip: spray the underside of the foil with nonstick spray so the cheese doesn't stick to the foil.
- Let the dish cool for about 5 minutes then serve with salad and garlic bread.
Assemble the dish completely in a freezer safe dish, but instead of baking it, let it cool in the fridge for 1 hour. Wrap the cooled dish completely with two layers of plastic wrap, going all the way around the bottom of the pan. Then cover in foil. Pop in the freezer. You can freeze the pasta bake for up to 3 months. Note: make sure to label the dish so you know what it is and when you frozen it! When it is time to bake simply thaw in fridge overnight and then proceed with baking for 25 minutes covered with foil and then an additional 10 minutes uncovered. Test the middle to make sure it warmed through. If not, pop it back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
If nutrition facts are provided they are calculated as an estimate to the best of our knowledge.