No-Boil Pasta Bake (Yes, it really works! And it uses only one pan!)

This pasta bake is done in one pan and doesn’t require you to even boil the pasta first. Yes, that means the pasta is cooked in the oven! It’s amazing how delicious it is when you literally only need to spend 5 minutes prepping it. This one is going to save your weeknights for sure!

A casserole of baked pasta from above with a serving spoon in the casserole, and a stack of blue plates beside the casserole dish.

I honestly hate the phrase “dump dinners” or “dump-and-go dinners” where you dump everything into a cooking vessel and that’s all you have to do. I dislike the phrase, for sure. But, I love the concept!

Truly my favorite way to cook is to put everything on a sheet pan or in a casserole dish, put it in the oven, and then walk away.

I was never sure if you could cook pasta in the oven like that though. Until I started working on this recipe. Then I learned that the answer is yes, you can absolutely cook pasta in the oven. You just need the right amount of liquid, and a delicious recipe.

You’re going to be amazed by this recipe. You literally just put everything into a baking dish, cover it, put it in the oven, and walk away.

How To Cook Pasta In The Oven

The details about the no-bake pasta bake are below. But I often get asked if you can cook pasta in the oven for other purposes. That’s what I’m explaining here first:

I haven’t had great success cooking pasta in water in the oven. The best way to do it is to preheat your oven to 400F. Then put your pasta in a casserole dish or oven-safe pot. If it’s long pasta, like spaghetti, you need to break it up into small pieces (2 inches). The reason is that all of the pasta will need to be submerged in liquid the entire time it’s in the oven and long strands are more likely to jut out.

Then add boiling water to the casserole dish. Use a kettle to boil the water, or boil it on the stove. Although, if you have a functioning stove, I suggest you cook your pasta on there since it turns out better. This is more for when you don’t have a stove. (The reason it turns out better is that the water is able to simmer continuously on the stove. In the oven, it doesn’t seem to stay up at that temperature and the pasta ends up a little bit gummier. It’s perfectly edible and good. Just a bit gummier).

Make sure the pasta is completely submerged in the very hot water. Add salt, about a tablespoon for 16 ounces of pasta, and stir.

Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil. You really want it to have a tight seal. A double layer of foil does this well.

Then put it into the oven for 5 minutes more than what is stated on the pasta box instructions. Test the pasta to see if it is to your liking, and then drain off the water.

How To Make A No-Boil Pasta Bake

While I don’t really like pasta that has been simmered in the oven in water, I do seriously love this dish where you cook the pasta in the oven but it’s cooking in a sauce. I think the reason is that the pasta is soaking up all of that delicious flavor, and the soaked up flavors more than make up for any subtle gumminess. Or maybe the cheese in the dish hides that gumminess? Anyhow, here’s what you do…

Preheat the oven to 400F and lightly grease a casserole dish. Then add uncooked pasta shells, fully-cooked sliced sausage (I buy this roasted pepper and Asiago chicken sausage that is sold fully-cooked in either the organic lunch meat area or with the wieners, depending on your store), some canned diced tomato (with juice – you need the liquid here), seasonings, and shredded mozzarella. Stir.

Top that with whole milk (a commenter to this recipe tried it with chicken broth and says it worked great, so you can try that instead, if you’d like).

Cover very tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for an hour.

At that point the pasta will be cooked, but I like to add some shredded cheese to the top and put it back into the oven, uncovered, to melt the cheese. Then the pasta bake NEEDS TO REST for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Why Does The Pasta Bake Need To Rest?

The pasta bake is going to come out seeming liquidy. That’s because all of the liquid in the casserole has been really simmering and moving all around due to the intense heat.

What you want is for that liquid to simmer down (lol). But seriously, you want it to stop simmering and settle down. As it settles, it will evaporate a bit, soak into the pasta a bit more, and thicken up.

So absolutely, let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes uncovered before serving. It will still be nice and hot for eating, it just won’t be so wet.

And there you have it: Delicious baked pasta all done in one pan with virtually zero work. Brilliant, right?

Enjoy!

Christine :)

Print

Delicious No-Boil Pasta Bake


  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 70 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

This pasta bake is done in one pan and doesn’t require you to even boil the pasta first. Yes, that means the pasta is cooked in the oven! It’s amazing how delicious it is when you literally only need to spend 5 minutes prepping it. This one is going to save your weeknights for sure!


Ingredients

  • Cooking oil or cooking spray
  • 8 oz. uncooked dried pasta shells
  • 12 oz. (4 links) fully-cooked chicken sausages
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with the juice
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk*
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 2 and 1/2 to 3 quart shallow casserole dish with oil or cooking spray.
  2. To the casserole dish add the pasta, sausage, diced tomatoes with juice, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Stir.
  3. Pour the milk over top and make sure that all of the pasta is submerged.
  4. Cover with two layers of aluminum foil and make sure it is very well sealed.
  5. Put it in the oven until the pasta is tender, 50-60 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and the Parmesan.
  7. Return to oven uncovered just until cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and let the pasta bake rest uncovered for 15 minutes before serving. This is important as the sauce really thickens up in this time.

Notes

*When you mix together milk with something acidic like tomatoes and heat it up, sometimes it can curdle. I’ve found that the higher content of whole milk makes this less likely here. So use whole milk if you can. If you use a lower fat content milk and it curdles, don’t worry about it. It’s still completely safe to eat and is still completely delicious, it just looks like you added some ricotta to the dish before baking it! Note that a commenter used chicken broth in place of the milk and had good results so that is worth trying if you don’t have whole milk.

This recipe was first published on this site in September, 2016 and was revised and republished in March, 2021.

No-Boil Pasta Bake (Yes, it really works! And it uses only one pan!)

17 responses to “No-Boil Pasta Bake (Yes, it really works! And it uses only one pan!)”

  1. Sherryl says:

    I was really skeptical about this recipe. I didn’t believe that it would work. But the airbnb we were staying in didn’t have a pot big enough for pasta for our family and I googled for how to cook pasta in the oven and found this. It was so good. The milk didn’t curdle. It did need to sit for a bit before serving because it had too much liquid at first. Thank you so much for saving the day!

  2. Jessica Roberts says:

    Ok, so I tried it with chicken broth and it turned out great. We doubled everything in the recipe for our big family, used ground Italian sausage instead because it’s what I had on hand and rotini pasta because I didn’t have shells. We left out the milk but added a can of chicken broth instead. Worked beautifully and everyone loved it.

  3. Jessica Roberts says:

    I wonder if I could substitute chicken broth for the milk. I read the note about curdled milk and just the thought of it (however delicious it may still taste) is a total deal breaker but the recipe sounds easy and yummy otherwise.

  4. Cheryl says:

    I LOVE your site. I read through some comments for the baked pasta and I’m one of those who can no longer be on my feet. Just had a partial amputation due to contracting MRSA through a callus and am still wobbly on my feet even wearing orthotics. Please, as many receipes as you can think of where it is quickly put in the oven (more flavor than crockpot IMO) I’d greatly appreciate!

  5. Jennifer MacKenzie says:

    Just made this as we’d run out of gas for our stove. Delicious – used what we had – so pork sausages, ‘easy garlic’ , spiral pasta, tin tomatoes, skimmed milk and a little double cream. Plus seasoning and grated mozzarella and cheddar!
    Really good dinner!

  6. Maria Stone says:

    We baked this in Turku, Finland and it turned out delicious. We used what we had – magnetic/induction oven. Heavy Cream+Water instead of milk. We used Finnish whole milk cheese from Aland islands instead of mozarella, and a bit of Greek Feta cheese. We used canned crushed tomatoes from Italy. We diced one tomato and three garlic cloves. Thank you so much for this recipe. We did not have a pot to use in our AirBNB and this no-boil pasta recipe was not only easy-to-make, but also so tasty that we finished it all in one dinner! Grazie :)

  7. Linda Hay says:

    This is a great casserole and easy but I found that the temp of 400 for 50 to 60 minutes is way too long.  I do mine at 350 for 60 minutes and it’s perfect.

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Thanks Linda. Glad you like the recipe! I’ll try it at the lower temperature next time and see how it goes.

  8. Have you tried this with other types of pasta? Have you ever tried it with spaghetti?

    • Christine Pittman says:

      Margaret, I’ve tried it with a few different types and they work to varying degrees. For spaghetti, I broke it into 2-3 inch pieces and it worked well.

  9. E says:

    This is a great recipe not only for busy moms but for people, like me, with disabilities. There are times I just can’t spend more than a few minutes standing up and even sitting on my “cooking stool” is too painful. Thank you for this recipe. It’s going to be something of a life saver!

    • Christine Pittman says:

      That is such a great point! Thank you for letting me know. I have a lot of recipes on this site that are of this type (get it in the oven quickly and forget it). It might be interesting to package them together in some way for people like you and me who really appreciate this style of cooking for whatever reason.

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