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Baked Penne Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

By Thepickyeater @pickyeaterblog

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This cheesy, healthy, baked penne pasta recipe is so easy to make and packed full of tasty, nutritious ingredients. Lightened up with roasted veggies, paired with a rich tomato sauce, it's a meal that the whole family will enjoy!

Baked ziti (or if you like penne better than ziti - baked penne pasta) is traditionally made with white pasta and loaded with cheese, sometimes meat, and very few vegetables - which makes it refined carb heaven, but not that great for you. But why can't baked penne be healthy too? My version is comforting, homey, amazingly flavorful, but so good for you that you could literally eat it every day - completely guilt-free.

The first time I made this my husband LOVED it - he said it was hearty and couldn't believe it was good for him too. This dish was inspired by a recipe I found from Giada De Laurentis - which is more like a traditional baked penne pasta. With a few simple swaps, my version is healthier and doesn't skimp on any of the flavor from the original!

How to make Healthy Baked Penne Pasta with Roasted Vegetables - step by step

Step 1: Chop all the veggies and preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Step 2: On a baking sheet (or in a casserole dish/large pan), toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Don't overcook your pasta! It will cook a second time in the oven, so you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain and set aside.

Step 4: Once the veggies are done, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. If you used a large casserole dish/pan to roast the veggies in, you can just dump all of the additional ingredients (pasta etc.) into that pan to mix everything together (that's what I'd recommend!). Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Step 5: Top the pasta with the remaining cheese (about 1/3 cup).

Step 6: Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

I love how gooey and bubbly the cheese gets once it's all melted! The veggies were perfectly cooked, and the whole wheat pasta gave the dish a great nutty quality. You could even substitute in lentil penne pasta for a gluten-free version that's packed with even more protein!

What makes this baked penne pasta healthy?

These simple healthy swaps make this baked penne pasta decadent, luxurious, but one serving has only 350 calories and 8.5g fat! Here's how to make baked penne pasta healthy:

  • Use whole wheat penne pasta, lentil pasta or chickpea pasta for a whole grain, high fiber alternative to white pasta.
  • Tons of veggies! A mix of squashes, mushrooms, and peppers adds fiber and antioxidants to this dish. You can even add 4 cups of chopped baby spinach to your marinara sauce before mixing it with the pasta to sneak in some extra greens if you like!
  • Less butter and oil - 1.5 tbsp is all you need for flavor and a nice caramelized quality to the veggies
  • Less cheese than a traditional baked penne pasta. Healthy doesn't mean you have to go with out cheese - and is it even a pasta bake without it?! But 1.5 cups is plenty and you still get that gooey, melted cheese crust on top!

Can you make baked penne pasta gluten-free?

Absolutely! I used whole wheat pasta which is higher in fiber than white pasta, but you could use a lentil or chickpea pasta instead, which would make this dish completely gluten free. If you use a lentil/chickpea pasta, you want to cook it for half the time listed on the package (so if it calls for 9 minutes of cooking time, you want to cook it for about 5 minutes before mixing it with the veggies/sauce/cheese and baking it).

Will kids like this baked penne pasta recipe?

Yes!! This dish is completely kid friendly. If you have kids that don't like the "look" of veggies, I recommend cutting the veggies super small after you roast them, to make them less conspicuous in this dish. I recently served this pasta to a room full of picky eaters, and they devoured it all!

Top tips for making Healthy Baked Penne Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

  • Make sure to use a large, deep casserole dish for baking so that you can fit everything into one dish!
  • To save on cleanup, roast the veggies in the dish you're going to bake the pasta in.
  • You can make this ahead of time - follow the steps to step 5 in the recipe, then cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook later that day.
  • Leftovers should be kept in an airtight container in the fridge - they will last for up to 4 days and gently reheated in the microwave or oven. You can also freeze this recipe in an airtight container - it will keep for up to 3 months! To reheat from frozen, defrost in the microwave on low and then heat in the oven on 350 until warmed through.
  • Don't overcook your pasta. I recommend cooking it for 50-60% of the time recommended on the package. It should still be a little hard inside when you drain it, and it will continue to cook while it's in the oven.

Be sure to check out these other healthy pasta recipes

If you have tried this healthy baked penne pasta with roasted vegetables recipe, or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

Baked Penne Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

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