Everyday Mom's Meals: Pasta For Lent

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Pasta For Lent

No matter if you celebrate Lent or not, are looking for meat-free dinners or not, this pasta bake is going to end up on your menu plant ASAP. How do I know? Because I am a busy mom who loves to be able to make dishes with short ingredient lists too, and if I have everything on hand already, even better. 

First let's talk about the inspo for this recipe. Those meat-free Friday meals so many of us have to plan during Lent. Let's face it, there is only so much fish and cheese pizza you can eat.  

Pasta bakes seem like a great alternative, but guess what I realized when I went back through my archives to share some on my Facebook page. Most of them, at least mine, contain meat of some sort. Ground beef, sausage, chicken, meatballs...our favorites seem to always have meat in them. Which during most of the year is no big deal, but if there are EMM loyalists out there looking for something meatless, they aren't going to much help. 

So why create a new dish and not just omit the meat from another? Well, for one, that's my job lol and two, because sometimes if you omit meat from a pasta bake, it isn't going to set up right because the liquid to protein ratio will be off. Nobody wants a soggy pasta supper. 

This is basically a grown up version of a dish my husband has been making for a quick weekend for our entire almost 21 year marriage; and also makes for our boys, whom love it. He literally boils a box of elbow macaroni, mixes it with a jar of pasta sauce (usually the cheapest kind he can find) and done. That's it. Maybe sprinkle with a little Parmesan at the table. 

I took that concept, made it a little more bougie with a nice flavored pasta sauce, penne pasta and added a ton of cheese. Why so much cheese? Because your kids will gobble this down when they see how ooey gooey it is. Oh, and talking about kids- if you have picky eaters who don't groove on the meat so much, how happy are they going to be to find out this is just noodles, sauce and cheese? 

Cheesy Baked Penne is super easy, super affordable and 100% delicious. It also happens to be one of those pastas that tastes great (almost better) the next day for lunch. 

If you are celebrating Lent, I hope this is helpful for you, but if you aren't, still give it a try on a night when you just can't handle complicated!

Cheesy Baked Penne

Can I use a different kind of pasta? 

Sure! Whatever you have on hand will work: elbows, rotini, ziti, shells, etc. 

Can I use a different kind of pasta sauce? 

Yep! I like the flavor of tomato & basil, but traditional or marinara would also work. Obviously if you're trying to go meat free, a meat flavored one not so much.

  Why 3-4 cups of cheese?

 I wanted to use all 4 cups I had, but decided 2 cups was a little too much for the top. But you can use whatever amount your family will like.

Cheesy Baked Penne

Best Tips

Look for a jarred sauce that says "thick" so it bakes up nicely. 

You could add veggies this as well: mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, spinach. Be sure to precook them and drain off any extra liquid. 

An Italian blend cheese would work too. 

Add some dried red pepper flakes for a little spice. 

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. Cover to reheat in microwave. 

Cheesy Baked Penne

2 (16 oz.) boxes penne

2 (24 oz.) jars tomato basil pasta sauce

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. Italian seasoning, extra for top

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

3-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a deep 9x13 baking dish. Boil pasta until al dente. In a large bowl combine pasta sauce and seasonings. When pasta is cooked, drain well. Add to sauce. Mix well. Add half pasta to bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle with 2 cups cheese. Add rest of pasta. Top with remaining cheese, either 1-2 cups. Sprinkle with extra Italian seasoning. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. 

Cheesy Baked Penne

More Pasta Bake Recipes To Try 

Baked Goulash

Lasagna Casserole

Cheesy Baked Tortellini 

Easy Baked Ziti  

Copycat Pizza Hut Cavatini 

Baked Spaghetti

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