We just spent the weekend doing our annual pre-holidays mission purge & declutter in between rink-hopping and woke up to our first snowfall of the season, and when I think of a cold weather comfort meal that warms our large brood’s bellies, clears out the fridge & takes minimal time to prep (a trifecta of dinner simplicity!), our Penne Pasta al Forno dish is always a winner! I have fond memories of my full-time working mama baking this cheesy leftover makeover from Dad’s meat-saucy pasta and is now one of my favourite one-dish classics to feed our own family. This share is more of a food-torial then “recipe”, as it’s always a bit different each time we make it based on they type of leftovers we’re eating up, so use what you’ve got & have fun making this oven-baked pasta wonder!
What is Pasta al Forno?
Pasta al forno is a popular dish of Italian cuisine. “Al forno” literally means “to the oven” in Italian and anything baked could be referred to as being prepared al forno – breads, pizzas, pastas, like lasagna!
About the Ingredients for Penne Pasta al Forno
Pasta – one day a week I make a big batch of short pasta (usually two 450g bags). One portion gets slathered in a homemade sugo and served that night, the other in butter or olive & stored in the fridge. For this Pasta al Forno dish, we used penne, but we’ve also made this one with Rigatoni and Cavatappi – equally great in baked casserole dishes because of the way they hold sauce.
Sauce – we’ve made this dish using either our homemade Sunday meat sauce or sugo di pomodoro (plain tomato meatless sauce). You, of course, could keep this super simple & use a bottle of pre-made pasta sauce.
Cheese – we used a combo of shredded hard ball mozzarella and mozarella fresca. I’ve also added dollops of soft fresh goat cheese in previous versions I’ve made before.
Protein + Veg Filling – we used leftover roasted Italian sheet pan cauliflower, shredded zucchini and leftover chicken. Use whatever combo of protein + veggies you prefer our want to use up from the fridge.
Penne Pasta al Forno | La Cucina di Kerrs
- Large rectangular casserole dish
- 1 450 g bag penne pasta *we used the whole wheat version by Molisana*
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil *to drizzle on pasta*
- Butter *to coat cooked pasta* OPTIONAL: not necessary if you prefer to use olive oil
- Tomato or meat sauce *enough to generously coat the amount of pasta you're baking*; we used our homemade sauce - store-bought is fine too!
- 1 medium Zucchini *shredded/grated/spiralized* - OR whatever cooked veg you need to use up!
- 1.5 cups Leftover sheet pan roasted cauliflower *cut into smaller pieces - OPTIONAL: use whatever roasted/cooked vegetables you have leftover*
- 1.5 cups Leftover cooked chicken *cut/shred leftover chicken into smaller pieces - OPTIONAL - can leave out to keep dish vegetarian*
- 1 320 g bag shredded Mozzarella *approx. 3 cups*
- 1 190 g ball Mozzarella Fresca *we love the one by Saputo*; tear into smaller pieces
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Add your leftover cooked penne pasta to a casserole dish (*or cook fresh according to package instructions*). Drizzle a bit of olive oil over top (not necessary if your penne was coated with butter/oil already).
- Add your leftover cooked veg and chicken evenly over top of the pasta as well as half of the torn Mozzarella Fresca.
- Add a generous amount of sauce (enough to cover the portion of pasta you've added nicely), then sprinkle your shredded mozzarella over top. Finish by adding the rest of your Mozzarella Fresca evenly on top of the shredded cheese.
- Bake on middle rack of your oven (uncovered) approximately 20-25 minutes, or until cheese bubbles golden. Remove from oven & let sit at least 5 minutes before serving. Optional: garnish with fresh basil. That's it! Buon appetito! Tag us at @House_of_Kerrs if you try!
We hope your family loves this Penne Pasta al Forno dish as much as we do! Share your creations with us if you try!
More One-Dish Pasta Dinner Ideas
If you’re looking for more easy one-dish pasta dinner-in-a-dash ideas, these are some of our delicious go-tos:
And if you have time for the ultimate pasta al forno recipe with a few more sacred (yet well worth it) steps – Papa D’s Homemade Lasagna is the one! Any one who had the honour of trying Papa’s lasagna knows how special & delicious this one is – a dish he made by request for all of our special family occasions & will always remind me of the beautiful food legacy he left for us to pass on.
Buon appetito! Tag us at @House_of_Kerrs if you try any of these one-dish pasta recipes!
Keep well, eat well,