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baked penne pasta being scooped out of a glass baking dish

Baked Penne Pasta

Freezer-friendly Baked Penne Pasta is an easy, kid-friendly dinner idea. Great for large groups too.

Yield: 10-12 1x
Prep: 45 minutesCook: 20 minutesTotal: 1 hour 5 minutes


  • 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) Here is where you can find meat you can trust.
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound (16 ounces) whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 tub (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds (6 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg

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Make It Now:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onions and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften. And garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. 
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Begin to boil your pasta. Make sure to undercook it a tad–especially if freezing!
  7. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and a dash of salt and pepper.
  8. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and mix it together.
  9. Add the cooled meat sauce that you set aside earlier and toss to combine.
  10. Dump the pasta mixture into a large greased casserole dish or lasagna dish. (NOTE: I ended up using a 9×13 AND a 9×9 dish to fit all of it!) Spoon the remaining sauce over the top, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  11. 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!

Freeze For Later: Follow the recipe through Step 10. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, foil or a lid. Freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: When ready to cook, you have two options:

  1. Thawed: Thaw in the fridge (may take up to 48 hours) or thaw in the microwave on defrost setting. Bake at 375 degrees F according to Step 11 in the recipe.
  2. Frozen: If cooking directly from frozen state, cover with foil. Place the frozen casserole in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Once it comes to temperature, bake for about 1 hour and 20-40 minutes, until heated through and bubbly. Remove the foil the last 20 minutes.


    • Substitute one pound ground beef with one pound Italian sausage.

    • Use diced tomatoes in place of the whole tomatoes.

    • Use marinara in place of tomato sauce.

    • Add veggies! I love to toss in raw spinach, sautéed mushrooms, cooked zucchini, or sautéed bell peppers.

    • You don’t have to use penne pasta. You can substitute with another similar short pasta shape.

© Author: Polly Conner
Cuisine: Italian Method: Baking