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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Vegetarian Pasta Bake with Italian Herbs

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This cheesy, healthy, baked vegetarian pasta bake recipe is so easy to make and packed full of tasty, nutritious ingredients. Lightened up with roasted veggies, paired with a rich tomato sauce, it’s a meal that the whole family will enjoy!

Vegetarian Pasta Bake with roasted vegetables served on a white plate

Baked ziti (or if you like penne better than ziti – baked penne pasta) is traditionally made with white pasta and loaded with cheese, sometimes meat, and very few vegetables — which makes it refined carb heaven, but not that great for you. But why can’t a pasta bake be healthy too? My version is comforting, homey, amazingly flavorful, but so good for you that you could literally eat it every day – completely guilt-free. It’s a healthy vegetarian Italian recipe!

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The first time I made this my husband LOVED it – he said it was hearty and couldn’t believe it was good for him too. This dish was inspired by a recipe I found from Giada De Laurentis – which is more like a traditional baked penne pasta. With a few simple swaps, my version is healthier and doesn’t skimp on any of the flavor from the original!

Close up of Vegetarian Pasta Bake with roasted vegetables on a white plate

Recipe Ingredients and Notes

Ingredients to make Vegetarian Pasta Bake
  • Pasta: I used whole wheat pasta for added whole grains, but you can use any type of pasta you like! Whole wheat, chickpea pasta, lentil pasta, or quinoa pasta would all taste great in this dish.
  • Veggies: I chose zucchini, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and peas, but this dish is so versatile you can add any combination of vegetables you like! Try other types of squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, asparagus, spinach, or artichokes!
  • Cheese: A blend of shredded Italian cheeses adds a depth of flavor to this pasta bake recipe.
  • Sauce: Use your favorite store bought marinara sauce to save time! Just make sure it has no added sugar.

How to make this Healthy Vegetarian Pasta Bake – Step by Step

Step 1: Chop all the veggies and preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

roasted Vegetables - squash, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, peppers - on a baking tray

Step 2: On a baking sheet (or in a casserole dish/large pan), toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Roasted vegetables and other ingredients for Vegetarian Pasta Bake

Step 3: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Don’t overcook your pasta! It will cook a second time in the oven, so you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain and set aside.

Step 4: Once the veggies are done, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If you used a large casserole dish/pan to roast the veggies in, you can just dump all of the additional ingredients (pasta etc.) into that pan to mix everything together (that’s what I’d recommend!). Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

All ingredients in a glass casserole dish
Ingredients for the baked penne pasta - pasta, veggies, cheese, sauce - mixed together

Step 5: Top the pasta with the remaining cheese (about 1/3 cup).

Shredded cheese on top of the rest of the pasta ingredients

Step 6: Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Vegetarian Pasta Bake just out of the oven

I love how gooey and bubbly the cheese gets once it’s all melted! The veggies were perfectly cooked, and the whole wheat pasta gave the dish a great nutty quality. You could even substitute in lentil penne pasta for a gluten-free version that’s packed with even more protein!

A spoon lifting up some Vegetarian Pasta Bake from the casserole dish

What Makes This Vegetarian Pasta Bake Healthy?

These simple healthy swaps make this baked penne pasta decadent, luxurious, but one serving has only 350 calories and 8.5g fat! Here’s how to make baked penne pasta healthy:

  • Use whole wheat penne pasta, lentil pasta or chickpea pasta for a whole grain, high fiber alternative to white pasta.
  • Tons of veggies! A mix of squashes, mushrooms, and peppers adds fiber and antioxidants to this dish. You can even add 4 cups of chopped baby spinach to your marinara sauce before mixing it with the pasta to sneak in some extra greens if you like!
  • Less butter and oil – 1.5 tbsp is all you need for flavor and a nice caramelized quality to the veggies
  • Less cheese than a traditional baked penne pasta. Healthy doesn’t mean you have to go with out cheese – and is it even a pasta bake without it?! But 1.5 cups is plenty and you still get that gooey, melted cheese crust on top!

Can you make this Vegetarian Pasta Bake gluten-free?

Absolutely! I used whole wheat pasta which is higher in fiber than white pasta, but you could use a lentil or chickpea pasta instead, which would make this dish completely gluten free. If you use a lentil/chickpea pasta, you want to cook it for half the time listed on the package (so if it calls for 9 minutes of cooking time, you want to cook it for about 5 minutes before mixing it with the veggies/sauce/cheese and baking it).

Will Kids Like This Pasta Bake Recipe?

Yes!! This dish is completely kid friendly. If you have kids that don’t like the “look” of veggies, I recommend cutting the veggies super small after you roast them, to make them less conspicuous in this dish. I recently served this pasta to a room full of picky eaters, and they devoured it all!

Close up of Vegetarian Pasta Bake with roasted vegetables on a white plate

Top Tips for Making This Healthy Vegetarian Pasta Bake

  • Make sure to use a large, deep casserole dish for baking so that you can fit everything into one dish!
  • To save on cleanup, roast the veggies in the dish you’re going to bake the pasta in.
  • You can make this ahead of time – follow the steps to step 5 in the recipe, then cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook later that day.
  • Leftovers should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge – they will last for up to 4 days and gently reheated in the microwave or oven. You can also freeze this recipe in an airtight container – it will keep for up to 3 months! To reheat from frozen, defrost in the microwave on low and then heat in the oven on 350 until warmed through.
  • Don’t overcook your pasta. I recommend cooking it for 50-60% of the time recommended on the package. It should still be a little hard inside when you drain it, and it will continue to cook while it’s in the oven.
Vegetarian Pasta Bake on a white plate in from of the casserole dish

Be Sure to Check Out These Other Healthy Pasta Recipes!

Top shot of Vegetarian Pasta Bake in a glass casserole dish

If you have tried this healthy Vegetarian Pasta Bake recipe, or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOKTWITTERINSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Vegetarian Pasta Bake with Italian Herbs

This cheesy, healthy, Vegetarian Pasta Bake recipe is so easy to make and packed full of tasty, nutritious ingredients. Lightened up with roasted veggies, paired with a rich tomato sauce, it's a meal that the whole family will enjoy!
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 350kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 3 bell peppers (yellow, orange or red) cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
  • 2 zucchini quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 summer squash quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 cremini mushrooms halved
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
  • 1.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt divided
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper divided
  • 2 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
  • 5 cups marinara sauce store bought or homemade
  • 1.5 cups frozen peas thawed
  • 1-1.5 cups shredded Italian cheese keep about 1/3 cup for the topping separate (I used a fontina, mozzarella & parmesan blend)

Instructions

  • Chop all the veggies and preheat your oven to 450 degrees
  • On a baking sheet (or in a casserole dish/large pan), toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Don't overcook your pasta! It will cook a second time in the oven, so you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain and set aside.
  • Once the veggies are done, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If you used a large casserole dish/pan to roast the veggies in, you can just dump all of the additional ingredients (pasta etc.) into that pan to mix everything together (that's what I'd recommend!). Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
  • Top the pasta with the remaining cheese (about 1/3 cup).
  • Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

Notes

Top tips for making Vegetarian Pasta Bake
  • Make sure to use a large, deep casserole dish for baking so that you can fit everything into one dish!
  • To save on cleanup, roast the veggies in the dish you’re going to bake the pasta in.
  • You can make this ahead of time – follow the steps to step 5 in the recipe, then cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook later that day.
  • Leftovers should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge – they will last for up to 4 days and gently reheated in the microwave or oven. You can also freeze this recipe in an airtight container – it will keep for up to 3 months! To reheat from frozen, defrost in the microwave on low and then heat in the oven on 350 until warmed through.
  • Don’t overcook your pasta. I recommend cooking it for 50-60% of the time recommended on the package. It should still be a little hard inside when you drain it, and it will continue to cook while it’s in the oven.
Adapted from FoodNetwork.com

Nutrition

Calories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 59.9g | Protein: 16.1g | Fat: 8.5g | Sodium: 551.2mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 10.6g
healthy baked penne with roasted vegetables-healthy food yummy, healthy delicious food, healthy food tips for picky eaters, picky kids meals

Posted In…

Italian Recipes ·

These recipes are sure to be a hit! Make a healthier pizza or a guilt-free pasta and enjoy the fresh flavors of Italy.

Many people think carbs and cheese when they think Italian, but there is so much more to appreciate: aromatic herbs, fresh ingredients, and bright flavors shine. Many of my Italian-inspired recipes are suitable for special diets, such as vegan ratatouille or gluten-free lasagna.

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