This was actually supposed to be a baked ziti, but it turns out ziti is just about impossible to find in grocery stores right now, so I went with a Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne instead. Sometimes you just have to roll with it! This recipe is a very vegetable-forward version of my Classic Baked Ziti, chock full of colorful vegetables, a quick homemade red sauce, and layers of ooey-gooey cheese. This recipes makes a LOT of pasta but the leftovers are awesome and freezable!
Take a Short Cut
This roasted vegetable baked penne is kind of a labor of love because there are so many moving parts, BUT you can take a short cut by using some jarred pasta sauce instead of making your own. Use about one and a half 24oz. jars of store-bought pasta sauce in place of the homemade sauce listed below.
How to Store Leftovers
As I mentioned in the intro, this makes a LOT of pasta. But the leftovers are super yummy, and it makes a really great item to stash in your freezer for grab-n-go lunches or quick dinners on busy nights. After baking, divide the pasta into single serving containers and transfer to the refrigerator. Once fully cooled, you can transfer some (or all) of the containers to the freezer for longer storage. I usually leave as many as I can eat in one week in the fridge and freeze the left. The leftovers can be reheated quickly in the microwave.
What Vegetables Can You Use?
I used a classic mix of zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, and bell pepper so I could have a really colorful mix. If you want to substitute any of these vegetables, here are some other good options:
In general you want to opt for softer vegetables for this dish, as opposed to harder root vegetables, but if you do want to include vegetables that are more firm, make sure to cut them into much smaller pieces to help them soften more quickly while they roast.
Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne
- 1 red onion ($0.44)
- 1 zucchini ($0.79)
- 1 yellow squash ($1.11)
- 1 bell pepper ($1.69)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.26)
- ⅛ tsp salt ($0.02)
- ⅛ tsp pepper ($0.02)
Simple Red Sauce
Pasta & Cheese
- 1 lb. penne ($1.00)
- 15 oz. ricotta ($2.19)
- 2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend**, divided ($1.86)
- 1/4 tsp pepper ($0.02)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish) ($0.11)
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dice the red onion, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper into 1-inch pieces. Spread the diced vegetables out over a large baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss until all the vegetables are coated in oil.
- Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven, stirring once half way through, for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the edges are brown and caramelized.
- While the vegetables are roasting, begin the red sauce. Finely dice the yellow onion and add it to a sauce pot with the butter. Sauté for a few minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt, and water.
- Stir the sauce to combine. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are finished roasting (about 30 minutes).
- In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the shredded Italian cheese blend, and ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the penne. Once boiling, add the penne and continue to boil until the pasta is tender. Drain the penne in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off.
- Stir one cup of the red sauce into the drained pasta to coat the pasta in flavor. Add the roasted vegetables to the remaining red sauce and stir to combine.
- To layer the casserole, place half of the sauce coated penne in the bottom of a 9×13" or 3 quart casserole dish. Add half of the cheese mixture on top in dollops, followed by half of the roasted vegetable and red sauce mixture. The ingredients do not need to create a solid layer or completely cover the previous layer. Repeat with a second layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable red sauce. Finally, top the casserole with the second cup of shredded Italian cheese blend.
- Cover the casserole with foil, making sure it doesn't touch the cheese on top. Place the casserole in the oven (still turned on to 400ºF) and bake for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, remove the foil and switch the oven from bake to broil. Broil the top of the casserole to brown the cheese for 3-5 minutes (watch closely as broilers can vary quite a bit from oven to oven). Top with chopped parsley if desired and serve!
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How to Make Roasted Vegetable Baked Penne
For the roasted vegetables I used one red onion, one zucchini, one yellow squash, and one red bell pepper. You can choose just about any vegetable you’d like (see notes above the recipe for suggestions).
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Dice the vegetables into 1-inch pieces. Place the diced vegetables on a large baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables until they are coated in oil.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and roast, stirring once halfway through, for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and caramelized on the edges.
While the vegetables are roasting, begin the rest of the casserole. Start with the homemade red sauce. Dice one yellow onion and add it to a sauce pot with 2 Tbsp butter. Sauté over medium heat until the onions are soft.
Once the onions are soft, add one 28oz. can crushed tomatoes, 3 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, 1/4 tsp salt, and ½ cup water. Stir to combine. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer, then turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done roasting (about 30 minutes).
While the vegetables are roasting and the red sauce is simmering away, prepare the cheese. Stir together 15oz. ricotta, 1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend, ¼ tsp pepper, and ¼ tsp salt.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add 1 lb. penne and continue to boil until the penne is tender. Drain the pasta in a colander, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add 1 cup of the red sauce and stir to coat.
Stir the roasted vegetables into the rest of the red sauce.
Now that the sauce, cheese, and pasta are done, it’s time to start layering! Add half of the sauce-coated pasta to the bottom of a 9×13″ (3 quart) casserole dish. Next, add half of the cheese mixture in dollops, followed by half of the vegetable red sauce. Each layer will not fully cover the previous layer. You don’t need to spend time trying to spread it out. It will all melt together as it bakes.
Repeat with a second layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable red sauce. Finally, add the second cup of shredded Italian cheese blend on top.
Cover the casserole dish with foil, taking care not to let it touch the cheese. Bake the casserole for 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes, remove the foil and change the oven from bake to broil. Let it broil for a few minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown on top. Top with a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley for garnish, if desired.