We’ve come to that point in our relationship where you’re either going to think I’m super cool or just plain lazy. Or maybe both. Lately, Kev’s been asking where are all those pasta bakes that I used to make. As if I’ve stuffed them into a box misplaced in the basement. “By the time I cook the noodles and make the sauce,” I said, “we might as well eat dinner rather than throwing it into another dish to bake even longer, another dish I have to clean. Also, have you heard her pre-dinner toddler grump?” But that got me thinking—I wonder if we can skip the whole boil-the-pasta part? If so, that might just give his beloved pasta bake a fighting chance around here.
This post was created in an ongoing partnership with Muir Glen Organic. Muir Glen harvests organic tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. Tomatoes go from field to can in 8 hours or less. When I shop for canned tomatoes, I stock my pantry with Muir Glen. Of course, all opinions/endorsements are my own.
So I tested parboiling the noodles in the same dish I baked it in. This method produced overcooked noodles with a prep time still too long. After several failed batches using this technique, I decided to try uncooked noodles. I make lasagna this way, but the noodle sheets are so thin, it didn’t seem like an trusty comparison. Either way, I did it. I stirred uncooked pasta noodles into my uncooked blended pasta sauce. Weirdest sound ever. I was doubtful. And the color of the tomato ricotta pasta sauce straight out of the blender, well, it wasn’t good. (Scroll down to see.)
But something magic happened after 40 minutes in the oven under a piece of foil. That horrible shade of pink turned into an appetizing red sauce, and the once hard noodles cooked to an al dente perfection. It happened under the watch of no one at all. It happened while I worked out in the basement.
This No Boil Pasta Bake is for the busy days—for the days you need to clean the house while dinner cooks because 10 people are coming over. For the days you need to squeeze in a workout because of all those Christmas cookies. For the days you just need a break from cooking dinner because it basically cooks itself.
Thanks for tuning into another episode of Mel’s Lazy Dinners. Until we meet again, try this recipe. Add spinach, red pepper flakes, or replace a bit of the water with vodka. And then write me back and tell me what you did with your 40 minutes of free time. Peace, love, and efficiency!
The assembly of this pasta bake takes about 5 minutes. Blend the sauce, stir in the uncooked noodles, and bake covered (and unattended) for 40 minutes. Finish it off with melty mozzarella and parsley. This recipe scales easily. I’ve written it for the lowest common denominator. As you scale the recipe up, scale the baking dish too. A good rule of thumb—the uncooked pasta should fill about 2/3 of the dish, no more.
Preheat oven to 375°. In a high powered blender, combine the tomatoes, water, parmesan, ricotta, cream, salt, oregano, basil, thyme, and garlic. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds. The color of the sauce will look completely unappetizing. Just trust me.
Add uncooked pasta noodles into an 8″ x 6″ baking dish. Noodles should fill about 2/3 of the baking dish. If the uncooked noodles fill to the top of the baking dish, use a larger dish. Pour sauce over the noodles and stir to evenly coat. Sauce will cover all the noodles with the tops of the noodles barely peeking out. Cover the baking dish with foil. Place baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. Bake for 40 minutes.
Remove from the oven. Stir. Pull hunks of mozzarella from the ball and place on top of the pasta. Bake uncovered for 12-15 minutes longer. Garish with parsley (optional) and serve.
• Be sure to use Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes. I tried other varieties, but none packed enough flavor straight out of the can. The only cooking of this sauce happens in the oven. The fire roasted tomatoes give this sauce the head start that it needs.
• As mentioned, this recipe is written for a small batch but sizes up well. To serve 4-6, make a recipe + a half recipe and bake it in an 8″ x 10″ dish. You get the idea. As you scale up, scale the baking dish. It’s important that the baking dish is at least 2″ high as the noodles will expand greatly as they cook. The uncooked noodles should fill about 2/3 of the dish.
I dont have fire roasted diced tomatoes, just diced tomatoes with Italian herbs. Any recommendations? Id love to make this tomorrow because my day is crazy and my kids want pasta lol.
Those should work great and add extra flavor!
I never comment on on food blogs, as i never get time to do it, but really this one is a good one !
Its very funny actually my fiancé and i run out of cooking Gaz to cook food by night. So i just started looking for something easy to cook and i felt on this recipe, its amazing and delicious !!!
Thank you a lot, keep on going, this recipe is saving my life now ✌🏻
We didn’t have ricotta in the house so I substituted plain yogurt and it worked great. This makes great “lunchovers” as well if you add a bit of water or milk before reheating.
I made this x 5 for a group gathering. The only modifications were an increase in the garlic and herbs and some tomato subs as noted below.
It multiplied very well and the pasta turned out perfectly. My sauce did remain a little pink in the center (this did not impact the texture of the pasta). I wonder if 1) it cooked differently due to size of the pan (the pink was most prominent in the 13 x 9 v the 8 x 8 or loaf pan (yes, loaf pan- it was more food than I thought) or if 2) the color was different as I used half fire roasted Glen Muir and half San Marzanos.
Ultimately, the pink was unphasing. I would definitely endorse this recipe. In fact, the next week I learned one of the guests was a pastry chef at the Beverly Hills Waldorf Astoria (read: she gets to make and taste a LOT of amazing food). She had rave reviews about this dish!
Oh, and I used whole wheat rotini!
I made it and unfortunately mine still was an ugly sauce. The pasta turned out ok but was not a great texture. Almost chewy.
Can I use whole milk instead of the cream?
I haven’t tested but I don’t think it should be a problem. Let me know how it turns out!
thanks for the heavy duty research and development on this! Great to know that it’s possible to skip the full boil then bake process!
This may be my answer to Christmas Eve dinner. I know you are practically veg, but what do you think about also stirring in some browned ground turkey when combining everything? Could work?
You could totally do that! If you have a large enough cast iron skillet, you could brown the meat in that and cook the pasta bake in the skillet to keep it a one dish thang!
GENIUS! thank you. merry merry week!
Melissa! You have no idea how excited this makes me. I love pasta bakes but just like you, began to realize how long they take — now I’m too freaking excited to just dump the pasta in the pan. And no more accidentally-too-mushy baked pasta! Win-win-win-win.
We devoured this for dinner tonight! I used 12 oz whole wheat farfalle (without changing amount of sauce) in an 8×8 dish and it was wonderful! Maybe had a few more crunchy noodle edges (I love that though-am I the only one??) but still a big hit with my husband and toddler. Forgot the parm in the sauce so added it with the mozzarella, and served it with a simple spinach-walnut-lemon salad (took the foil off the pasta, threw some walnuts on it and let them toast in the oven the last 15 min). Such a delicious, surprisingly hearty, cozy meal! Thank you for sharing, and if you have any more simple, outstanding recipes like this up your sleeve I’d LOVE to see them!!
OMG! I have always wondered why you have to precook noodles…just to bake them again!!! Life is now changed!!!
Oh and totally agree about the Muir Glen tomatoes! The best! Thanks!
This looks so delicious!
Made this last night and it was exactly how you described it! Quick, SUPER EASY and kid approved! I make no boil lasagna and I never thought about switching noodles! Great idea! Keep doing what you do! Working moms everywhere are thankful!
Mary Ann here, you know ‘ my birthday in a bowl’ Mary Ann! Just wanted to tell you that I made your Italian Cream Cake on Sunday for our co-op! It was, without surprise, a hit and hardly any was left to bring home for Joe. Anyway, using the icing recipe for a chocolate cake this weekend (soup around the fire ring with friends). I think it will be yummy. Thanks so much for your blog, your recipes, your stories, they are all wonderful!