Delicious dinner recipe? Check. Freezer friendly? Check. Makes a lot of leftovers? Check. Approved by all ages in the family? Check. Feeds a large group of people? Check. Easy to make? Check!
I’ve been making this Baked Penne Pasta Recipe for a while now. It’s finally time for me to share it with the world. If any of you dear readers out there embark on making this recipe, the world will be a better place. Share the love and impress your eaters.
Time for some Baked Penne Pasta making. Here’s how you get started: (Printable recipe at the bottom)
To get started with the hearty-gooey-tasty deliciousness, you make the sauce first.
Start by softening up your garlic and diced onion in some olive oil. (PS-here is a little tip on how to dice an onion!) Now add your ground beef and brown it up until there is no pink showing.
At this point things will start smelling really good and your toddler will begin his attempts to climb up your leg. When he fails, he will likely take any loose fitting pants down with him. Just sayin.
Now that your toddler is occupied watching fire trucks on your iPhone (wait, I’m not supposed to do that before two years old, right?) Well, at least I’m not cooking pantless anymore. I digress.
After meat is browned up, drain off some fat and add in the tomato sauce and tomatoes. You could sub these two for two jars of marinara if you want. Add your salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and anything else you feel it needs.
Now let it simmer on low for about 25-30 minutes. After that, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down. You’ll see why in a bit.
After you get that sauce a-simmerin’, start multitasking. If you need to shred your cheese (here is why you should shred your own cheese by the way) go ahead and do that. You can also start to boil your pasta. Make sure to undercook it a tad. Seriously. If not, you’ll have some funky texture going on after it bakes in the oven.
In another bowl, combine your creamy stuff: ricotta, egg, 2 cups mozzarella, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir. But not TOO good of a stir. Just enough to mix it together, k?
Once pasta is cooked and drained, mix it with your cheese mixture. After the pasta and cheese mixture is combined, add in that cooled pasta sauce I told you about earlier. You did follow my directions, right?!
Once you’ve mixed that together, you have a delicious, gooey mess.
Get. In. My. Mouth.
Pour the pasta into a baking dish.
Now top it off with remaining pasta sauce.
Now finish it off with a layer of mozzarella.
If you’re planning on freezing this meal, this is the point in which you put your lid on and freeze it.
What kind of containers do you store freezer meals in?
We highly recommend using a BPA-free container or dish. While it may be easier to buy the disposable Glad ovenware containers, it really makes sense to stock up on some quality, safe dishes that you can bake AND store in. After searching long and hard, I highly recommend using these containers from MightyNest.
Here is a picture of them in use.
A few reasons I like these:
- Glass is a natural, non-porous material.
- Glass cookware doubles as food storageware.
- Glass is easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
- The clear lid allows easy visibility to your food.
- Because they are oven and microwave proof, you can cook, heat, and store your food all in one dish.
- Flat top allows for easy stacking.
- They are VERY affordable.
Swing by MightyNest and check these out!
Now back to the recipe…
Either freeze your baked pasta at this point, or….
Let it cool a bit before serving it up.
Goodness. I need to make some more after writing this post.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 pounds ground beef (or one pound ground beef & one pound Italian sausage)
- 1 can (28 ounce size) whole tomatoes, with juice
- 2 cans (14.5 ounce) tomato sauce or marinara sauce
- 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 16 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 tub (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1-1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, grated
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften.
- Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
- Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
- After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Begin to boil your pasta. Make sure to undercook it a tad--especially if freezing!
- In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and a dash of salt and pepper.
- Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and barely mix it together.
- Add the cooled meat sauce that you set aside earlier and toss to combine.
- Dump the pasta mixture into a large greased casserole dish or lasagna dish. (I ended up using a 9x13 AND a 9x9 dish to fit all of it!)
- Spoon the remaining sauce over the top, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
- Hint: Sprinkle chopped parsley over the pasta before serving!
Prepare the casserole up until you are supposed to bake it, but do not bake. Wrap the unbaked pasta tightly before putting in the freezer.
When ready to cook, thaw in the fridge (may take up to 48 hours) or thaw in the microwave on defrost setting. Bake at 375 degrees according to instructions.
If cooking directly from frozen state, increase baking time by 1 to 1 ½ hours (total baking time of about 2-2 ½ hours).
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