October 1, 2012

Vegetarian Baked Penne

The honey and I went to a great little Italian restaurant for date night over the weekend. He ordered Baked Ziti with a Bolognese sauce, and cooped up inside today listening to the rain pitter-pattering all afternoon, I was inspired to create a vegetarian version for us at home.

Tomato season may have ended here – though my parents back in California are lucky enough to still be harvesting homegrown little beauties – but this recipe packs a flavorful punch even while substituting a store-bought tomato sauce for homemade. This is a cozy, drizzly-evening sort of meal, best served with fresh bread, good company, and a bottle – or two – of wine.



Vegetarian Baked Penne

  • Author: Fork Knife Swoon
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6-8 Servings


  • 28 oz dry whole-wheat penne pasta
  • 24 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 8 oz light cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup mozarella cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbs crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 375º. Cook penne according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
  2. Meanwhile, add the olive oil, onion and bell pepper to a large sauce-pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper to the pan. Stir to combine. Cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about five minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add the tomato sauce and cream cheese. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the cheese has fully melted.
  4. Add the pasta to the sauce, and stir to combine. Spread the pasta mixture into a 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is brown and bubbly, and the pasta is warmed through. Serve hot.


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Make this recipe? Let us know what you think!

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  • Reply
    NIck Davis
    March 7, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you so much for not having a MASSIVE story and million photos. Was pleased to see the recipe near the top. You win, will definitely make this tonight!

  • Reply
    January 23, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Totally yummy. I’m a vegetarian and don’t find much on the net that we all like. This one hit the spot! Thanks!

    • Reply
      January 24, 2016 at 11:07 am

      So glad everyone enjoyed the pasta! Thanks, Priya!

  • Reply
    Nichole Gerhardt
    April 18, 2014 at 11:42 pm

    This was great! I made it for my meat eating husband and vegetarian brother and both loved it! I’ll definitely be making this again! Delicious! Thanks!

  • Reply
    November 20, 2013 at 3:27 am

    Looks delicious! Silly question but by ‘tomato sauce’ do you mean the plain Tomato sauce that comes in a can or the jarred sauces like Classico brand marinara type? I’m adding this recipe to my must try list! 🙂

    • Reply
      December 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Thanks, Arielle! Sorry for the confusion! I meant seasoned tomato sauces, either homemade or store-bought brands such as Classico in your favorite flavor (marinara, olive oil and garlic, etc. all work nicely). Let me know how you like it!

  • Reply
    50 Awesome Vegetarian Recipes - A Helicopter Mom
    July 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    […] 50. Vegetarian Baked Penne […]

  • Reply
    March 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Loved this, making it again only this time cuttin it in half!

    • Reply
      March 11, 2013 at 6:33 pm

      Thanks Annie! It’s one of our favorites, and it does make a lot!

  • Reply
    October 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I made this tonight and thought it was delicious! Thanks!

    • Reply
      October 4, 2012 at 11:18 am

      I’m so glad you liked it!

  • Reply
    October 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I love that you quoted Lorie Colwin on this. This recipe looks both extraordinary + simple — a rare and perfect combination! It would be a perfect contribution to our Shine Supper Club. Hope you’ll join us! (More info: yhoo.it/PK7SiN)

    • Reply
      October 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

      I just love that quote… and thank you!

  • Reply
    October 2, 2012 at 2:21 am

    A wonderful pasta dish!

    • Reply
      October 4, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Thank you!!