Pasta al Forno {Baked Pasta}

Please tell me I’m not the only one that despite well made dinner and menu plans often gets to the dinnertime hour wondering what happened to the aforementioned plan.

Sometimes time simply gets away from me, sometimes the level of chaos in my home completely fries whatever plan was made in the first place, sometimes the sheer number of children I have hanging onto my legs at any given time prevents me from following through with the plan due to my inability to move outside of a 6-inch radius, and believe it or not, sometimes the plan never was made in the first place (gasp!).

In those moments, despite my wish for some superhero to come flying through the window to rescue me from my dinner woes, I realize I have to put on my game face and figure out dinner.

That’s why I’m in love with this here Pasta al Forno (a fancy name for baked pasta).


This meal is as close as I will ever get to that unattainable superhero coming to my rescue (well, this meal and these 39 others).

It’s fast.

It requires fairly minimal prep and baking. It uses ingredients I nearly always have in my pantry and refrigerator and when I serve it, I don’t get one single complaint from the hungry mouths devouring it.

If that’s not a superhero success, I don’t know what is. Simple, classically delicious in flavor and ingredients and pretty much perfect for a pre-planned dinner or for a last-minute rescue op.

Pasta al Forno {Baked Pasta}

What To ServeCrispy Oven-Baked Chicken
A simple green salad (or for something more fancy this Gourmet Green Salad)
Fresh, seasonal fruit

One Year Ago: Santa Fe Spice Rub
Two Years Ago: Cheesy Skillet Chicken and Rice with Green Beans
Three Years Ago: Crispy Southwest Chicken Wraps

Pasta al Forno {Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella}

Yield: Serves 6

Pasta al Forno {Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella}


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 (14-ounces each) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound penne pasta or other tube-shaped pasta
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pot of lightly salted water, cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, in a 10- or 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes (undrained), oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
  2. After draining the pasta, return the noodles to the pot and pour in the sauce. Toss to combine. Lightly coat a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Place half of the pasta in the dish. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan and half of the mozzarella cubes over the top. Top with remaining pasta. Sprinkle remaining cheeses over the top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from Annie’s Eats, originally from Pasta by Dorling Kindersley

37 Responses to Pasta al Forno {Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella}

  1. Mary Woods says:

    Dear Mel
    I made this for the first time last night – used lots of garlic and fresh basil. It was quite simply, delicious! Thank you.

  2. Natalie Feller says:


    Love you blog – use it at least once every week. I have a question I have not seen addressed. Is there a way to substitute garden tomatoes for canned tomatoes in recipes? I am drowning in fresh tomatoes – a good problem I know. Can I just weigh the tomatoes and use the same weight as the canned or do I need to add extra liquid? Do you have any thoughts on this? I have had mixed success trying to substitute fresh for canned and need to know if there is a trick to it.


    • Mel says:

      Natalie Feller – That’s a good question. It’s been hit and miss for me whether fresh tomatoes sub well for canned. Usually I go by cup measures – so if a recipe calls for a can of diced tomatoes, I usually use about 2 cups chopped (undrained). It might be a bit less of the liquid but I don’t like adding water and diluting the taste.

  3. Lori says:

    This is one if my favorites right now! I finely dice a whole zucchini and a yellow squash and cool them with the tomatoes to add more veggies and not even my anti-healthy trickery husband has noticed πŸ™‚ I’m planning on making this for a family reunion but was wondering if I could freeze it. Maybe prepare everything and freeze before the baking step? We have about a 7 hr drive, so I was hoping to freeze it, keep it in a cooler for the drive, then stick it in the oven as soon as we arrive. Thoughts?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Lori – love your additions of veggies to this! I think this would fare great frozen. Your plan sounds exactly like something I would try. Go for it! Good luck!

  4. Raquel says:

    I tried out this recipe last night and my family loved it. It was simple to make and the flavors were delicious. As per usual when I make your recipes, they turn out just like you want them to πŸ™‚

  5. Heidy A says:

    Making this comfort food dish right now! The first snow fall here in SE WI today makes me desire something warm and cheesy!

  6. Kerri says:

    This is so delicious and so, so easy! I’m going to make it for the second time tonight and maybe add some chicken- not because I need a quick meal, but because it’s a perfect rainy day dinner- thank you! πŸ™‚

  7. Nicole says:

    Bless you for saving my bacon tonight! I was going to do your white bean turkey chili (not sure what it’s called right now), but we had upset tummies in our house so beans were out of the question. This was on my menu to try in a couple of days anyway, so I had everything – and often would anyway, love having good pantry recipes in the repertoire, thanks!!

  8. Mel says:

    This recipe was delicious…as are all the others I have tried! I added a bit of italian sausage that I had in the fridge. The entire family loved it, and I enjoyed it as leftovers for lunch the following day. A fellow teacher sitting next to me at lunch asked about my pasta because it looked and smelled so good…she even asked for the recipe. Thanks, once again, for a delicious “keeper” – I am so glad to have found your blog!
    Another Mel : )

  9. Ashley says:

    Kids and I love this, have made it several times since you posted. Have made it several times to send in lunchbox thermoses for three school age kids, sometimes I add ground beef just to stretch it out and it tastes great. Also have used whole wheat pasta and gluten free pasta (penne) and both work well also. Thanks so much, this is a great (and versatile!) healthy recipe for a mom and her brood. πŸ™‚

  10. Beth says:

    This is going into my pasta file. It would work well as a side dish too, like along side your lemon-garlic chicken. I think because the sauce isn’t as “wet” as other baked pasta dishes, the leftovers were as good as the first time round (instead of soggy).

  11. Jess in ND says:

    I whipped this up at the last minute for my kids while hosting a sleepover. It always feels so good to show guests what great homemade food tastes like. And now I know that 2 cloves garlic + 1 tsp basil + 1 tsp oregano added to 2 cans diced tomatoes = a reliable sauce recipe!

  12. Debra says:

    mmmmm…made my mouth water… πŸ™‚

  13. Nicole says:

    My brother-in-law lived in Italy for a few years and passed on to me a Pasta al Forno recipe he learned while there. It’s definitely not as easy to whip together in a hurry as the one you posted, but the additions are pure deliciousness. I recommend you try it! The recipe is very general with amounts as it came from a genuine Italian lady who did not follow a recipe. So just judge amounts depending on how much you want to have and your own taste preferences.

    You’ll need:
    tube noodles like rigatoni or penne
    your favorite red sauce (If you want to really go crazy add some Italian sausage to your red sauce)
    your favorite white sauce
    a couple of hard boiled eggs sliced (It may seem weird but trust me the eggs are good in this one!)
    thinly sliced ham
    mozzarella cheese.

    cook the noodles. Mix the with the red sauce. Put half of the noodle/red sauce mix in the bottom of a pan (whatever size you will need for how much noddles you cooked). Then layer with half of the cheese, the egg slices, ham, and all of the white sauce. Top with the rest of the noodles. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake at 375 or 400 until bubbly and cheese is browned.

  14. Nikki says:

    You are my super hero. This saved me tonight. I used fresh cherry tomatoes from our garden and basil. It was so simple and delicious!

  15. Wendy says:

    I made this last night with fresh tomatoes from this week’s CSA. Easy and yummy. Thanks Mel!

  16. Mel says:

    Kristen – yes, you can definitely use fresh basil!

  17. Annette says:

    This dish tastes even better with fresh tomatoes and basil which I have an abundance of in our garden this year!

  18. My mother-in-law makes a similar dish that is one of our favorites! She adds ground beef to her version though, and always makes two huge pans full to feed our large family when we get together for Sunday dinners.

  19. Kristen says:

    Can I use fresh basil for this? I have tons that I grew over the summer. This recipe looks delicious!! Thanks!

  20. Sandy M says:

    Must, Must, Must Try! Thanks!

  21. I love baked pasta! Looks delicious!

  22. Shar says:

    You know, I’ve just been trying to re-organize my recipe binders for a “Fast & Easy” section, so THANKS! Seriously, your website & recipes have been a lifesaver for me so many times–you are a superhero! πŸ™‚

  23. Cammee says:

    Amen sister!!! This is the reason the crockpot is my new BFF. I seem to have more time during the day than in the evening, and my family are never all here at the same time for dinner. I learned I need to simplify my cooking during this stage of life. I loved your 30 minute meal post and I will definitely be trying this recipe as well.

  24. Missy says:

    I stopped making a certain meal plan for each night and just started making of meals for the week … Some super quick and some more complicated and then I just go by how I’m feeling that day. Unfortunately sometimes that doesn’t even work and I just end up making grilled cheese or waffles. Oh and let’s not forget that wonderfully cheap pizza from Little Caesars! This meal looks great. I need to go get more cheese but I usually have most of this stuff on hand. Thanks!

  25. I absolutely love this. How delicious looking!!

  26. Oh yay! I am 5 days from my due date with my fourth child and although I love to cook, I don’t want to be in the kitchen too much these days! I also have a bounty of fresh tomatoes and Italian type ingredients to use, so I’ll be doing a version of this tonight!! (That is if I’m not in labor) ;0) THANK YOU!

  27. Jenn says:

    Holy moly me oh my! I have all those ingredients on hand! And since I promised the hubby bacon tonight for dinner I might just add bacon to the mix. Thank you Mel!

  28. Yeah I completely relate to that feeling of “Crap, there goes THAT plan!” This baked pasta looks delish!

  29. Heather says:

    Oh, simple and delicious? I’m in love! I think I’ll add some of my remaining fresh basil!

  30. Tami says:

    Mike makes pasta al forno sometimes showing off his mission culinary skills. He adds layers of hard boiled egg, peas, and sometimes ham or sausage. It is delicious.

  31. Peggy Ann says:

    I have made this too and it is delicious!. The link to your winners announced page doesn’t work πŸ˜‰

  32. CanΒ΄t go wrong with italian flavors and this pasta is no exception! Hope youΒ΄re having a great week Mel!

  33. My dinner menu plans usually fail because I say I’m going to make something ultra complicated. Last night, I wanted to make black eyed pea casserole from Recipe Girl. It’s delicious and I’ve been looking forward to it all week! BUT, I had figs in the fridge that needed to be jammed, and I had to test another recipe for the blog. But, for lack of a better plan, I went ahead and did all 3. The dishes were awful last night! But delicious πŸ™‚

  34. Kim in MD says:

    I have never had Pasta al Forno, but it looks and sounds delicious, Mel!

  35. Love this simple dinner! It looks lovely!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *