Baked penne pasta is a classic dish made with layers of penne, meat sauce, and creamy cheese. It is one of the easiest and cheapest pasta bake recipes, making it a perfect dish to cook for large groups. It’s also great for making ahead. While we do use ground beef and Italian sausage for baked penne recipes, we’re giving this dish a delicious Mexican twist using chorizo and mixed vegetables. Serve it hot to enjoy the melted cheese, and don’t forget to pair your penne bake with some garlic bread.
Tips on Making Baked Penne Pasta
This penne pasta casserole dish is sure to be a showstopper at the dinner table. It’s easy to make, and we have more tips to help you perfect it. Read on and follow these expert tips for the best baked penne pasta dish.
- Any pasta would work for this recipe. We’re using penne rigate because it carries the heavy sauce well and it holds up through the baking. Rigatoni and ziti are also great options.
- Take the pasta off the heat before it reaches al dente so that the finished dish won’t be mushy. Remember, the residual heat will continue to cook it. And it will be cooked once again during baking time.
- If you have been stocking up on cheddar and mozzarella cheese, this is a great way to use them! They melt better than shredded. Top the baked penne with cheese slices for a creamier, gooier melted cheese blanket. You can also use ricotta cheese in place of sour cream.
- Make this easy pasta bake recipe ahead. You can assemble the pasta in a baking dish, cover and refrigerate it, and bake it the next day or up to four days later. Can you freeze cooked pasta, you might ask? Absolutely. You can freeze it baked or unbaked and it will stay good for three months.
- For other delicious ingredients, you can try adding chili flakes, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli florets, and cream cheese.
How To Make Mexican Baked Penne Pasta
This baked penne is the Mexican version of mac n' cheese. The meat is replaced with delicious chorizo to go with the pasta and Mexican blend cheese.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat up a large skillet on the stove.
Take out a 9x13-inch baking dish and spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
Cook the chorizo on high heat, breaking it up as it cooks.
Turn off the heat, then drain excess fat.
Mix in the vegetables, tomato sauce, and pasta.
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of cheese and sour cream.
Assemble half of the pasta in an even layer at the bottom of the pan.
Layer the cheese mixture, followed by the remaining pasta.
Top with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
Commonly Asked Questions
Do you bake baked penne covered or uncovered with foil?
Baking pasta covered with foil does not make it cook faster; but in some instances, it cooks better. The foil prevents the top from drying out. If the top is covered with a lot of cheese just like our baked pasta recipe, the cheese will end up sticking to the foil. That being said, it’s better to bake it uncovered. The cheese will melt and be golden brown, and some parts of the pasta will be deliciously toasted.
How long do you boil pasta before baking?
It’s best to cook store-bought pasta according to its package directions. However, for most pasta recipes cooked together with its sauce, we recommend undercooking the pasta half the total cooking time. This will prevent the pasta from overcooking or turning mushy when cooked the second time.
Are penne and ziti the same?
No, there’s a noticeable difference between ziti vs penne. Ziti is shorter and thicker than penne and has a smooth exterior. It is also cut straight, while ribbed-wall penne is cut on an angle.
Everybody loves a plate of baked penne with a meaty tomato sauce and creamy melted cheese. But this Mexican version with chorizo and mixed veggies is also worth a try! Make this comforting pasta dish paired with garlic bread for dinner tonight.
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