This Italian Baked Penne Casserole recipe makes two full casseroles. Make one to enjoy right away and one to freeze for later!
Warm, cheesy, and melty Italian Baked Penne Casserole is a hearty meal that the whole family can enjoy together. This savory and comforting penne casserole recipe makes enough to fill two casserole dishes, one to bake right away and one to throw in the freezer for another day!
ONE PREP, TWO MEALS
I love this recipe because it makes two dinners! After just 30 minutes of prep, you’ll have dinner for tonight and a backup casserole for any other night when you want to take it easy in the kitchen!
OTHER RECIPES TO SERVE WITH ITALIAN BAKED PENNE CASSEROLE
- Italian Chop Salad – This salad is the perfect side to serve with a pasta bake. The acidity of this chop salad perfectly balances the richness of the melty cheese.
- Grilled Parmesan Garlic Bread – Garlic bread and pasta are a match made in heaven!
- Lemon Butter Broccolini – If you’re looking for something leafy and green to bring balance to your dinner, this broccolini recipe is perfect!
Sauce: This sauce is a tomato sauce base mixed with diced garlic and onions and sliced mushrooms.
Seasoning: You’ll want to have oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder on hand.
Pasta and Cheese: Perhaps the most important ingredients in this casserole are the penne pasta and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Meat: This recipe calls for pre-seasoned Italian ground turkey, but you can always season the meat yourself if you can’t find it. You can also use ground beef or chicken if you prefer.
HOW TO MAKE ITALIAN BAKED PENNE CASSEROLE
STEP ONE: Start by grabbing a large pot and heating the olive oil on medium heat. Add the diced onion and sliced mushrooms to the pot and cook them for 3-4 minutes until they are softened. Now add the diced garlic and allow it to cook for a minute, continuing to stir it so doesn’t burn. Next, add the tomato sauce and season it with oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer while you start cooking the ground turkey.
STEP TWO: Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat and add the ground turkey. Break it up with a spatula as it cooks and browns. While the meat cooks, bring water to boil in a stock pot and cook the penne pasta according to the directions on the back of the package. While the pasta cooks, taste the sauce and feel free to add garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste.
STEP THREE: When the sauce, turkey, and penne are finished you can begin to assemble the two 9 x 13 casserole dishes (one foil and one glass or ceramic). First, split the sauce evenly between the two dishes and coat the bottom. Split the cooked penne and turkey between the two pans and toss the ingredients together with a spoon. Next, sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese over each casserole.
STEP FOUR: Cover one casserole tightly with foil and freeze it.
STEP FIVE: Cover the second casserole with foil and bake it in the oven at 375 degrees F for 20-30 minutes or until it is heated through. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes to allow the cheese to become slightly golden on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- Be careful not to overcook the penne because this Italian Baked Penne Casserole will continue to bake in the oven. Slightly undercooked pasta will come out perfectly after the casserole bakes.
- For the best results, make sure you tightly cover the freezer casserole with foil to prevent freezer burn.
HOW TO FREEZE CASSEROLES
I prefer to use a disposable aluminum foil pan when I am freezing casseroles. That way I don’t have a whole dish out of commission in the freezer for weeks. As an added bonus, the clean-up is a breeze! Spray the foil pan with cooking spray before filling it. When placing the Italian penne pasta into the pan, leave around a 1/2 inch between the top of the pasta and the lid. Make sure to cover the pan tightly either with the provided lid or aluminum foil before placing it in the freezer. A frozen pasta casserole will keep in the freezer for up to three months.
HOW LONG TO BAKE A PENNE CASSEROLE
This Italian Baked Penne Casserole will bake for 20-30 minutes when you’re making it immediately after prep. If you are reheating this casserole from frozen, I recommend taking it out of the freezer the day before and letting it defrost in the fridge. A defrosted casserole will bake in about 30 minutes, whereas a frozen one will take about an hour.
OTHER CASSEROLE RECIPES
- Ham and Pineapple Pasta Bake
- Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Simple Broccoli Casserole
- Breakfast Ham Casserole
- Taco Tater Tot Casserole
*This post originally published on 08/24/2013.
- 54 ounces canned tomato sauce (2 cans)
- 6-8 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions diced
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder optional
- 1 tablespoon onion powder optional
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 16 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 2 pounds Italian Seasoned ground turkey (or ground turkey + 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning)
- 2 pounds Penne pasta
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- Italian parsley chopped, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place a large pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, oregano, basil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer. Check the seasoning of the tomato sauce and adjust to taste.
- While the sauce simmers, place another large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and cook the ground turkey until cooked through and browned. Use a wooden spoon to break up the turkey as it cooks.
- While the turkey cooks, bring a stock pot of water to a boil. Add the penne pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente. The pasta will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and set aside.
- Grab two 9-inch x 13-inch baking dishes (or aluminum pans). Spread enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the pan in each dish.
- Divide the penne pasta, ground turkey, and tomato between the two dishes and stir to combine. Sprinkle the top of each casserole with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.
- Cover the casserole dishes with foil and freeze one for later. (see note) Bake the other casserole for 20-30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley or Italian seasoning and serve warm.