The recipe prices will vary based on fluctuating grocery costs. Please use what is posted as a guide.
Elevate pasta night with our Baked Penne recipe. Al dente pasta, ricotta cheese, robust marinara, and crowned with a golden cheesy crust.
This recipe costs about $13.87 to make. It makes eight servings for approximately $1.73 per serving.
Table of Contents
Baked Penne Pasta
If you have picky eaters, this recipe is for you! This classic comfort food recipe is designed with kids in mind. Kids love the layers of cheese, pasta, and sauce. And adults love it, too, so it is a win-win.
Our recipe is a budget-conscience recipe that we are sharing with busy families because of how simple and cost-effective the recipe is. You can have this meal ready in under an hour for less than fifteen dollars.
The medley of cheeses, tender pasta, and rich marinara sauce comes together to create a creamy, cheesy, hearty, comforting dish that can be enjoyed year-round. Our Penne Pasta Bake is a recipe you will want to save to use time and time again. It is perfect alongside our Caesar Salad Kit Hack without Anchovies and Easy Garlic Bread.
What You’ll Love About Baked Penne
- Kid Friendly: Most kids love pasta and cheese. Luckily, this dish is full of both, making it a kid’s favorite.
- Comfort Food: This dish is full of comforting goodness. Rich pasta sauce, filling noodles, and warm, melty cheese is a classic combination that will please the whole family.
- Easy Prep: This is a great meal for busy weeknights. The recipe is easy to follow and comes together quickly.
- Budget-Friendly: This recipe is made with essential ingredients you may already have. But even if you do not have it on hand, it will cost less than $15.00 to feed a family of eight, making this an affordable meal any night of the week.
Ingredients & Estimated Cost:
- 1 pound lean ground beef – $3.58
- 1 small yellow onion – $0.39
- 2 garlic cloves – $0.08
- 24 oz jar marinara sauce – $1.79
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning $0.14
- 16 ounce Penne Pasta – $1.33
- 15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese – $2.99
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese – $1.20
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese – $1.20
- 1 large egg – $0.23
The recipe cost is calculated by the amounts needed for the recipe. To find out more about how we price our recipes, check out Budget Recipes Explained. The pricing for this recipe was updated in August 2023.
How To Make Baked Penne
***For complete recipe instructions, see the recipe card below.
- First, cook the ground beef in a large skillet for about five to eight minutes.
- Then, add the onions and cook until they are soft and the beef is cooked through.
- Stir in the garlic to cook for one minute, and then drain off the grease.
- Next, stir in the marinara sauce and seasoning. Bring the mixture to a low boil and reduce the heat to simmer for fifteen minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
- Cook the pasta according to the box directions to al dente, then drain and rinse the pasta under cold water.
- Next, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, and egg in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
- Add one cup of sauce to the bottom of the baking dish, followed by half of the pasta.
- Top the pasta with the ricotta mixture and half of the sauce, followed by the remaining pasta and then the sauce.
- Finally, sprinkle for twenty-five to thirty minutes and serve with garlic bread and salad, if desired.
Recipe Variations and Substitutions
- Vegetarian Option: Replace ground beef with sautéed mushrooms, spinach, or other vegetables to the sauce for added flavor and nutrition.
- Different Meat: Instead of lean ground beef, you can use ground turkey, ground chicken, or Italian sausage.
- Pasta Variation: While penne is traditional for this recipe, you can use other pasta shapes, such as rigatoni, ziti, or even spaghetti broken into smaller pieces.
- Gluten-Free Option: Use gluten-free pasta to make the dish suitable for those with gluten sensitivities.
- Dairy-Free Variation: You can use dairy-free ricotta and mozzarella alternatives for a dairy-free version. You can find plant-based cheeses made from nuts or soy.
- Whole Wheat Pasta: Opt for whole wheat or whole grain pasta for added fiber and nutrients.
- Breadcrumb Topping: Sprinkle breadcrumbs mixed with melted butter or olive oil on top before baking for a crunchy topping.
Penne Pasta Bake Serving and Storage Tips
Serve: Serve the baked penne hot and bubbly straight from the oven. Garnish with fresh parsley for a pop of color. Pair it with garlic bread and a side salad for a complete and satisfying meal.
Store: To store leftovers, allow the pasta to cool to room temperature, then cover the baking dish tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 3-4 days, ensuring the leftovers are well-sealed to prevent drying out.
Freeze: If you want to freeze the baked penne, assemble the dish, but skip the baking step. Cover it securely with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then label it with the date. It can be frozen for up to 2-3 months.
Thaw: To thaw, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight. This gradual thawing helps maintain the dish’s texture. Avoid thawing at room temperature to prevent bacterial growth. When ready, follow the baking instructions in the recipe card below.
Baked Penne Recipe FAQs
The difference is the type of noodle. Both are similar in shape, but ziti is cut straight while penne is cut on the diagonal. Ziti and Penne are both cylindrical in shape.
Yes, for our recipe, you will want to bake the pasta, following the directions on the box to al dente. You will then layer the cooked pasta in the baking dish and the other ingredients before baking the dish in the oven.
We prefer not to cover our pasta while baking it. This creates a nice melty, cheesy, golden topping that is irresistible.
Get Kids Involved
Ages 2-3: Have your little ones help by gathering the ingredients and kitchen tools needed for making this recipe. This is a great way to begin introducing them to the kitchen, and it helps them feel a part of the cooking process.
Ages 4-5: Have your child measure and mix the cheeses. This is a fun and hands-on way to get an introduction to fractions.
Ages 6-8: When baking the dish, ask your child to set the table. Use this time to discuss how to properly set a table, which is information they will use throughout their lives.
Ages 9-11: Supervise them while they prepare the entire recipe. Remember to have them read it twice before beginning the recipe.
Ages 12+: Let them prepare the entire recipe unsupervised while you do the happy dance in the corner!
Purchase ground beef in bulk from a warehouse like Costco. We divide it into appropriate amounts between Ziploc bags and put it in the freezer to use as needed for recipes like this Baked Penne recipe. We have found this a cost-effective way to reduce our grocery bill by a few dollars each month.
More Italian Recipes
- Cheesy Baked Spaghetti
- Copycat Olive Garden Fettuccine Alfredo
- Instant Pot Spaghetti
- Crockpot Lasagna Soup
- Italian Zucchini Boats
- Tomato Chicken Alfredo
- Skillet Lasagna
- Pizza Casserole – with pasta and so many toppings!
- Instant Pot lentil Bolognese
- Homemade Chicken Parmesan
- 13×9-inch baking dish
- large skillet
- mixing spoon
- mixing bowls
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 small yellow onion about ½ cup, diced finely
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 28 oz jar marinara sauce
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
- 16 oz penne pasta cooked to al dente
- 15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley for garnish optional
MAKE MEAT SAUCE:
- In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef until halfway done for 5-8 minutes.
- Add onions until soft, and the beef is thoroughly cooked with no pink remaining.
- Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Drain off the grease.
- Add marinara sauce and seasoning.
- Stir to combine and bring to a low boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the sauce to a bowl and allow it to cool while you cook the pasta and prepare the rest of the recipe.
PREP OVEN AND BAKING DISH:
- Move the oven rack to the middle position.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Lightly spray a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
- Cook pasta according to directions on the box to al dente.
- Rinse the pasta under cold water to stop the cooking process.
MAKE RICOTTA MIXTURE:
- Mix ricotta cheese, 1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and egg in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
- Layer with half of the pasta.
- Top with ricotta mixture and then half of the sauce.
- Add the remaining pasta and top with the remaining sauce.
- Then sprinkle with ½ cup mozzarella cheese.
BAKE AND SERVE:
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
- Serve immediately with garlic bread and salad if you like.