How to make a pasta bake

Craving something hearty, healthy and warm? Pasta e Fagiole (AKA pasta and beans) is the answer. Perfect for those dreary winter evenings when you want something fast and delicious, this soup comes together in no time, and it’s super adaptable. (As in, chop up whatever you’ve got in your crisper and throw it in the pot!)

Traditionally this soup is made from dried beans, but we’ve opted for canned beans for ease. Not only can we be sure that canned beans are cooked perfectly every time, but in this recipe we’re also using their canning liquid for added flavor. If you prefer dried beans—go for it! Just be sure to factor in added time for soaking the dried beans.

Beans aren’t the only variables you can play with in this recipe! Below, we’ll break down all the opportunities for substitutions and additions so you can make your Pasta e Fagioli the best it can be!

The Vegetables

Onions, carrots, and celery (AKA mirepoix) provides the flavorful foundation from this soup, and many others. That doesn’t mean they have to be the only vegetables though! Root vegetables like parsnips, fennel, or turnips could also be thrown in at this stage to contribute added flavor and texture.

If you prefer more leafy greens in your soup, try kale, bok choy, or escarole. These can all be added around the same time as the pasta, that way they’ll have time to wilt but will still retain some bite. If you’d like to add more delicate greens like swiss chard or spinach, throw them in at the end. They’ll wilt in less than a minute when folded into the hot soup.

The Noodles

Traditionally this dish is made with Ditalini, a tiny, tube-shaped pasta. Generally, we prefer to stick to tradition and choose a smaller shape of pasta like ditalini, orecchiete, or even orzo. Pretty much any pasta you have lying around will do, but we’d stay away from longer noodles like spaghetti or fettuccine. (They’re better suited for dishes like garlic spaghetti and shrimp alfredo.)

The Meat

Part of what makes our Pasta e Fagioli so hearty is the addition of sausage. It’s totally optional, though! If you’d prefer, start by crisping up some bacon or pancetta instead. When all the fat is rendered out, remove it from your pan to a paper towel lined plate and use the remaining fat to cook your vegetables. When your soup is fully prepared, top it with your crisped bacon/pancetta before serving. Chicken or shrimp would also be a great addition, just keep in mind they cook at different rates and would need to be added at different stages of cooking.

The Broth

When it comes to broth, we have one rule: buy low sodium! Often store-bought broth is seasoned with an unnecessary amount of salt. Instead, we prefer to season ourselves. Remember, it’s a lot easier to fix an under-salted soup than an over-salted one.

Vegetable broth is also a perfectly good substitute if you’re going the vegetarian route. This soup is hearty enough without any meat, so feel free to substitute away! Small cubes of extra firm tofu would be a good addition as well if you’re looking for more protein.

The Cheese

Parm is the most traditional route for this dish, a little freshly grated on top before serving goes a long way. If you’re the type of person that saves parm rinds in the freezer, now’s the time to use ’em! They’ll add another dimension of richness and flavor that takes this soup to a whole other level.

Good parm is expensive. If you’re on a budget, try pecorino instead! It’s a delicious salty, nutty hard cheese, but with a lower price tag.

Final Touches

A good garnish can really make a soup. We top ours with cheese and parsley, but you can really go crazy with the toppings. Red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lemon, or even more herbs like basil or tarragon would also be delicious. Just make sure you’re adding something with a little brightness like herbs or citrus to give this hearty soup a boost of brightness. Buon appetitio!

This pasta bake is done in one pan and doesn’t require you to even boil the pasta first. Yes, that means the pasta is cooked in the oven! It’s amazing how delicious it is when you literally only need to spend 5 minutes prepping it. This one is going to save your weeknights for sure!

I honestly hate the phrase “dump dinners” or “dump-and-go dinners” where you dump everything into a cooking vessel and that’s all you have to do. I dislike the phrase, for sure. But, I love the concept!

Truly my favorite way to cook is to put everything on a sheet pan or in a casserole dish, put it in the oven, and then walk away.

I was never sure if you could cook pasta in the oven like that though. Until I started working on this recipe. Then I learned that the answer is yes, you can absolutely cook pasta in the oven. You just need the right amount of liquid, and a delicious recipe.

You’re going to be amazed by this recipe. You literally just put everything into a baking dish, cover it, put it in the oven, and walk away.

How to make a pasta bake

Here’s A Video For How To Do A Pasta Bake:

How To Cook Pasta In The Oven

The details about the no-bake pasta bake are below. But I often get asked if you can cook pasta in the oven for other purposes. That’s what I’m explaining here first:

I haven’t had great success cooking pasta in water in the oven. The best way to do it is to preheat your oven to 400°F. Then put your pasta in a casserole dish or oven-safe pot. If it’s long pasta, like spaghetti, you need to break it up into small pieces (2 inches). The reason is that all of the pasta will need to be submerged in liquid the entire time it’s in the oven and long strands are more likely to jut out.

Then add boiling water to the casserole dish. Use a kettle to boil the water, or boil it on the stove. Although, if you have a functioning stove, I suggest you cook your pasta on there since it turns out better. This is more for when you don’t have a stove. (The reason it turns out better is that the water is able to simmer continuously on the stove. In the oven, it doesn’t seem to stay up at that temperature and the pasta ends up a little bit gummier. It’s perfectly edible and good. Just a bit gummier.)

Make sure the pasta is completely submerged in the very hot water. Add salt, about a tablespoon for 16 ounces of pasta, and stir.

Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil. You really want it to have a tight seal. A double layer of foil does this well.

Then put it into the oven for 5 minutes more than what is stated on the pasta box instructions. Test the pasta to see if it is to your liking, and then drain off the water.

How To Make A No-Boil Pasta Bake

While I don’t really like pasta that has been simmered in the oven in water, I do seriously love this dish where you cook the pasta in the oven but it’s cooking in a sauce. I think the reason is that the pasta is soaking up all of that delicious flavor, and the soaked up flavors more than make up for any subtle gumminess. Or maybe the cheese in the dish hides that gumminess? Anyhow, here’s what you do…

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease a casserole dish. Then add uncooked pasta shells, fully-cooked sliced sausage (I buy this roasted pepper and Asiago chicken sausage that is sold fully-cooked in either the organic lunch meat area or with the wieners, depending on your store), some canned diced tomato (with juice – you need the liquid here), seasonings, and shredded mozzarella. Stir.

Top that with whole milk (a commenter to this recipe tried it with chicken broth and says it worked great, so you can try that instead, if you’d like).

Cover very tightly with a double layer of aluminum foil and bake for an hour.

At that point the pasta will be cooked, but I like to add some shredded cheese to the top and put it back into the oven, uncovered, to melt the cheese. Then the pasta bake NEEDS TO REST for 15 minutes before serving.

Why Does The Pasta Bake Need To Rest?

The pasta bake is going to come out seeming liquidy. That’s because all of the liquid in the casserole has been really simmering and moving all around due to the intense heat.

What you want is for that liquid to simmer down (lol). But seriously, you want it to stop simmering and settle down. As it settles, it will evaporate a bit, soak into the pasta a bit more, and thicken up.

So absolutely, let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes uncovered before serving. It will still be nice and hot for eating, it just won’t be so wet.

And there you have it: Delicious baked pasta all done in one pan with virtually zero work. Brilliant, right?

How to make a pasta bake

Baked pasta is, hands down, one of the best comfort foods we know. Done right, this classic is the perfect combination of cheesy, starchy, saucy, hot, and salty. Pair it with a bottle of red, and you’ve got a darn fine casserole on your hands. But “darn fine” is nothing compared to “amazing,” “incredible,” or “transcendental.” Learn the most common mistakes home cooks make when cooking baked pasta, and make your family’s favorite dinner even better—these tips from digital food editor Dawn Perry are all you need for a ziti upgrade. Just don’t forget the garlic bread for marinara-mopping.

Many of us grew up eating baked ziti, and there will always a place for this noodle in our lives. But here’s something that may be difficult to hear: Ziti isn’t necessarily the best shape of pasta for this job. Sauce can slide right off of its smooth sides, leaving a pool at the bottom of the plate (not to mention, naked noodles). To sidestep this tragic loss of sauce, use a tubular pasta that has deep ridges, like rigatoni, riccioli, or rocchetti. Avoid long, thin, or floppy shapes, as well as thin noodles that can quickly overcook. So keep in mind: Ridges hold sauce and cheese, and sturdier sides make for a well-cooked, not soggy and floppy, noodle. That said, if you’ve got a soft spot for ziti, or your family will revolt if you use anything else, go ahead and grab a box. It will be okay. We promise.

To avoid mushy baked pasta, seriously undercook the pasta in its boiling phase. Perry lets the pasta boil for just five minutes before draining it well and tossing it in the sauce. Because the pasta’s going into a hot sauce in a hot oven, it’ll continue to cook long after it’s been drained. You’re looking for a semi-raw texture—even firmer than al dente pasta. Cook it completely in the beginning of the game, and by the time you serve yourself up a plate, you’ll have sad, limp noodles.

A red sauce is traditional in Italian-American baked pasta dishes, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Instead of supplementing the marinara with ricotta, as is typically the case, Perry nixes the fresh cheese. “Ricotta gets spongy and dry when baked,” she explains. To achieve that gooey-melty-oozy-and-saucy level of baked pasta perfection, make two sauces: a red sauce, and a white béchamel sauce. The béchamel, which is thickened with flour and butter and filled out with whole milk, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses, is combined with the marinara for a sauce that’s both bright and rich. (Sticklers will note that the addition of cheese to a béchamel technically makes it a mornay, but we just call it baked pasta perfection.)

You’ve got a lot of moving parts in a baked pasta dish: The white and red sauces, the cheese, and the pasta itself. Be sure to taste every single component before combining them and sticking the pan in the oven. Both sauces should be well-seasoned, but not overly salty, and the noodles should be tasty with an extra-firm bite—you should not want to eat the pasta as-is. Also consider the fact that some mozzarella comes pre-salted, and Parmesan definitely has a salty flavor. Taste everything and adjust accordingly.

Baked pasta will never acquire that golden, bubbling crust in a regular oven. Baking it steadily at 350 degrees will ensure that the cheesy sauce melts beautifully into the noodles, but the temperature isn’t high enough to get any color on the top layer of cheese. Well, unless you keep the pan in the oven for hours, which will result in overcooked pasta. Once the pasta is perfectly cooked (about 15-20 minutes for a 3-quart casserole), stick it under the broiler and monitor it closely. It can take as long as four minutes to achieve that deep burnished top layer, but it can quickly veer off toward too done, so be vigilant and don’t walk away from the kitchen. As a bonus, broiling the casserole will inevitably result in a few crunchy, crispy noodles toward the top. We love crunchy, crispy noodles.

You know you should let a porterhouse steak, roasted chicken, or pork chop rest before slicing it. A baked pasta casserole is no different. Allowing the dish to hang out for five to 10 minutes after cooking will give the sauce a chance to settle into the nooks and crannies of your pasta. Dig in right away, and the juice will pool to the bottom of the casserole, leaving you with a thin-tasting sauce. And it’s hot! That dish just came out from under the broiler. A burned tongue means you won’t be able to enjoy your hard-earned effort.

Pasta bakes are a family favourite, but there are some common mistakes that can get in the way. Find out why your pasta bake is mushy, watery or dry, and how you can avoid those problems. Plus find out how to get a delicious and crunchy top on your bake every time.

In partnership and featuring recipes from Perfect Italiano.

Pasta bake, in all of its cheese-topped glory, ticks every box. This family dinner favourite is the ultimate veggie smuggler recipe, making it a gem for fussy eaters, plus it’s second to none when it comes to comfort food. Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered, “can you freeze pasta bake?” – the answer is yes!

Before you get started on your pasta bake, take note of the following tips and FAQs which will help you to achieve perfectly cooked pasta, a flavoursome sauce and to create the all-important bubbly and golden top.

Tips for a better pasta bake

Undercook your pasta

Avoid mushy pasta by undercooking the pasta in the boiling phase. Simply take away 2-3 minutes from the recommended cooking time on the packet. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so it will be perfectly tender when it’s time to serve.

Why is my pasta bake watery?

There are a couple of reasons why your pasta bake might be runny. Sauce that is thick at room temperature or from the fridge will thin out in the hot oven. It is better to have a thicker sauce at the beginning, so it will be the right consistency after cooking.

The addition of vegetables could also be the culprit. Vegetables release lots of water when cooked. If you’re adding extra vegetables to your recipe, sauté them in a pan to reduce their water content before adding them in. Frozen vegetables should be defrosted and drained.

Why is my pasta bake dry?

Pasta absorbs liquid from the sauce as it cooks. If there’s too much pasta and not enough sauce, you can end up with a dry bake. It’s best to follow the recommended amounts in the recipe for a pasta bake that’s just right. If you’re cooking without a recipe, add the pasta to the sauce in batches so you can stop before you add too much. Generally, you want your pasta bake to look extra saucy before it goes in the oven.

Check your seasoning

Make sure each component of your pasta bake is seasoned well before it goes into the oven. Remember to cook your pasta in salted water, season your sauce and use a flavourful cheese.

Use the right cheese

The best way to achieve a tasty pasta bake with a crunchy top is to use the right blend of cheeses. Some types of cheddar can become oily, and mozzarella can be too mild if you prefer a full flavour. Perfect Italiano Perfect Bakes is made to have just the right ratio of cheddar for flavour, mozzarella for colour and stretch, and parmesan for bite. It melts beautifully and gives crunchy, golden tops on bakes every time.

TIP: To add even more crunch to the top of your pasta bake, sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs on top of your cheese before baking.

Let your pasta bake rest

Okay, so it’s a little hard to resist the urge to serve up all that baked goodness right out of the oven, however it’s important to wait 5-10 minutes. This gives the bake time to firm up slightly, so your pasta bake will hold its shape and be easier to serve and eat.

More pasta bake recipes

Check out lots of pasta bake recipes below! These have been tested so that they will always come out just right. Click for a collection of pasta bake recipes.

Don’t forget you can save these recipes to your own ecookbook using your free myfoodbook account. Login to start saving, or create an account if you don’t have one yet.

These stuffed pasta shells take a bit of time but you get an amazing result. Stuffed with creamy ricotta, bacon and spinach, the flavour of this bake makes it worth the effort.

This saucy gnocchi dish smuggles in plenty of vegetables and has a great pizza flavour that both kids and adults absolutely love.

This meatball pasta bake is a great way to use mince, the meatballs can be made ahead of time and frozen so you can whip up this easy weeknight meal in no time.

Hit this trend out of the park with a few simple tips.

Description: Food Network Kitchen’s Baked Feta Pasta. Keywords: Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese, Mezze Rigatoni, Garlic, Basil, Red Pepper

Whether you’re an avid TikTok user or just a casual Instagram consumer, by now you’ve probably seen the baked feta pasta taking the social media world by storm. Finnish food blogger Jenni Hayrinen first created the dish back in 2019 (creating the hashtag #uunifetapasta), but it’s easy to see why this recipe has achieved viral fame: Cherry tomatoes and a whole block of feta are baked until bursting and softened, then tossed with garlic, basil and tender pasta for a beautifully cheesy dish. With so many variations and rave reviews popping up around the web, we decided to give this recipe a try. Here’s what we found to be some key tips and tricks to make this dish an overwhelming success.

Don’t Over Do It On the Pasta

A lot of TikTok videos show users making this dish with a whole pound of pasta. Resist the urge to use the whole box and just use 8 to 10 ounces. You want the baked tomato and feta sauce to coat the pasta nicely. Any more pasta will make for a dry dish.

Photo by: Amanda Neal

Short Pasta Is Preferred

Use a short pasta for this recipe, such as a rigatoni, penne or fusilli instead of long noodle like spaghetti or linguine. Short pasta will easily stir into the hearty sauce and be more enjoyable to eat. We particularly love how the sauce gets stuck inside the nooks and crannies of mezze rigatoni!

Save Your Pasta Water

Once the pasta is finished boiling and just al dente, reserve some of your pasta water, then drain. A splash of this warm, starchy water will help loosen the sauce if it becomes too thick.

Get Good-Quality Feta

Make sure to buy a good-quality feta for this recipe, particularly because it’s the main ingredient and flavor of this dish! We suggest using a medium or firm Greek feta made only from sheep’s milk. Feta made from cow’s milk tends to be crumblier and more sour in flavor compared to other varieties.

Photo by: Amanda Neal

Don’t be Afraid of the Amount of Oil

Not only does the olive oil prevent the tomatoes from burning, but it also helps to cook (or confit) the tomatoes, providing a smooth and rich mouthfeel. I promise, you want to use the full 1/2 cup!

Get Creative with Seasoning

We kept it simple with the seasoning, including salt, pepper, garlic and basil. However, feel free to add dried oregano or an Italian seasoning blend before baking for added flavor. However, avoid lemon juice, vinegar or parmesan, as this dish already has intense flavor and acidity.

Don’t Forget to Season with Salt

The balance of salt is very important in this recipe; you can go from perfect to overly salted with just a couple extra granules. We suggest adding just a small amount of salt to the cherry tomatoes, then finishing the dish with a pinch of flaky sea salt. This will make your tomatoes and feta shine without over doing it.

Photo by: Amanda Neal

TikTok-Inspired Baked Feta Pasta

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Level: Easy

INGREDIENTS

2 pints (20 ounces) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
One 8-ounce block feta cheese, drained
10 ounces mezze rigatoni
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt, for serving

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the cherry tomatoes and olive oil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl until combined. Pour into a 2 1/2 to 3-quart baking dish. Place the feta in the center of the tomatoes, then season with a pinch of black pepper. Bake until the tomatoes have burst and the feta has softened, about 30 minutes. Increase the heat to 450 degrees F, then continue to cook until the tomatoes and feta are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water, then drain well.

Right as the tomatoes and feta come out of the oven, stir in the garlic. Use the back of a spoon to smash the tomatoes and feta into a smooth and creamy sauce (it’s OK if some of the oil isn’t fully integrated and combined). Toss in the pasta and half of the basil until evenly coated. Add some pasta water, a couple tablespoons at a time, if the sauce becomes too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining basil and a pinch of flaky sea salt for serving.

How to make a pasta bake

Chicken pasta bake is a simple and delicious dinner that will please even the pickiest eaters.

How to make a pasta bake

We make this often in our house. I usually make some extra chicken breasts for a different meal, earlier in the week. This is a great way to use chicken breasts, and a great way to get maximum mileage for your effort in the kitchen.

I am using my Air Fryer chicken breasts in this recipe, and they are what is seen in these photos. I diced them up into bite-sized cubes.

How to make a pasta bake

Choose quality ingredients

As always, this chicken pasta bake will taste best if you choose high quality ingredients.

How to make a pasta bake

Yes, I am using store-bought pasta sauce. No shame in my game, people!💁🏼‍♀️ There are some really great ones out there. Feel free to use your favorite! A couple of our favorites are this Aldi organic marinara (pictured) and Trader Joe’s organic marinara.

Also, we love penne pasta in this recipe. But you can use your favorite cut of pasta. Farfalle pasta (bow ties) works great in this recipe, and so does rotini (spirals).

We also love, love, love the ButcherBox organic free range chicken breasts. All of their meats are top notch quality and are the best we have ever tasted! Side note: You can get 2 pounds of ground beef FREE for life when you sign up through my affiliate link here.

Okay, back to the chicken pasta bake recipe!

Assembling chicken pasta bake

Here is how I assemble chicken pasta bake.

After I cook the pasta and drain it, I return it to the cooking pot (removed from heat), and I toss it with the pasta sauce. Then I add half of the pasta to a casserole dish. I am using a 2.5 quart oval Corningware casserole dish from this set. We got that set as a wedding present thirteen years ago, and it is still going strong!💪🏻 A 9 x 13 casserole dish would also work great.

Once half the pasta is in there, I add a ricotta parmesan filling. This filling is optional, and we make this recipe without it if we are super busy, and it is still good. But the filling really makes it extra cheesy, delicious and satisfying. Just spoon it on in little globs like this.

How to make a pasta bake

Then use the back of your spoon to kind of spread it around. Add the other half of the pasta on top. Then add the chicken on top of that.

How to make a pasta bake

Next sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

How to make a pasta bake

Sometimes I sprinkle with dried oregano, which gives it extra flavor. Sometimes I forget. 😜 No worries, it’ll still be good! Bake it until that cheese gets all melty and just as it starts to turn brown, about 15 to 17 minutes.

And welcome to dinner time heaven, people. That cheese, tho!😍👌🏻

How to make a pasta bake

Modifications

You can totally substitute gluten free pasta. My only suggestion would be to cook it al dente, with a good amount of bite left to it. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven. In my experience, gluten free pasta tends to fall apart a little easier than traditional pasta. So cooking it a minute or so less than package instructions should do the trick.

We also make chicken pasta bake all the time without the ricotta parmesan filling. It makes it even quicker and easier.

How to make a pasta bake

Chicken pasta bake recipe

Did you try this chicken pasta bake recipe? Give it a star rating. Pin it and share it if it looks good to you. And be sure and stay connected on social media!

How to make a pasta bake

Cooking pasta in an oven can be done in a variety of ways. Although lasagna is potentially the most well-known baked pasta, you can also bake spaghetti, mezze penne and many other pastas. Additionally, not all pastas need to be precooked before you put them in the oven.

Video of the Day

Cooking Pasta in an Oven

There are many ways of cooking pasta in an oven. For certain dishes, like lasagna, baked ziti and million-dollar baked spaghetti, you need to use precooked pasta.

All of these dishes incorporate boiled pasta, a tomato-based sauce and cheese as the main components of their recipes. These ingredients are layered in lasagna and million-dollar baked spaghetti, but mixed together for baked ziti. However, all three are topped with some type of cheese.

In addition to these main ingredients, you might find other ingredients incorporated too. For example, you might add sausage to the baked spaghetti dish.

Alternatively, basil, mushrooms, spinach, onion and turkey might all be ingredients in a low-fat lasagna dish. The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming lean meats and poultry, like turkey, whenever possible to reduce your fat consumption.

Similarly, baked ziti can be made with a mixture of tofu and ricotta if you're keen on reducing your saturated fat intake. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less saturated fat when possible to maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Generally, the hardest part of cooking pasta in an oven is making sure that it isn't cooked for too long. When precooking the pasta, you usually want to make it al dente, or cooked until it's slightly softened but still firm and not mushy.

This is because it's typically cooked again for around 30 minutes once you put it in the oven. All of these dishes require heating at 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (176 to 205 degrees Celsius) for this duration to fully cook.

Cooking No-Boil Baked Pasta

If you're in a rush, you can actually cook pasta in an oven without precooking it. Lasagna sheets and cannelloni are particularly well-suited for being cooked in an oven.

In no-boil baked pasta recipes, you'd use similar ingredients to any other pasta dish, like tomato-based sauces, cheese and meat. You're also cooking the pasta at the same temperature (around 350 F).

However, the main difference is that you're incorporating uncooked pasta, rather than already boiled pasta. Because this pasta is uncooked, it needs a bit more liquid. Many recipes ask you to add extra water, milk, cream or tomato sauce to your pasta mixture. Don't worry if the mixture appears too runny — the liquid evaporates or is absorbed as the food cooks.

Because no-boil baked pasta dishes involve uncooked pasta, keep in mind that you'll need to cook them for a longer period of time. Pasta bakes and casseroles are fully cooked when they've reached an internal temperature of 165 F or 74 C.

How to make a pasta bake

Baked pastas can serve a crowd and act as a all-in-one meal, but there’s one common problem that aggravates home cooks: the dish comes out of the oven too dry. You can try to correct this by serving a side of sauce, but if you haven’t begun cooking yet, here are 8 tips to getting everything right from the start.

Boil your pasta properly

Cook your pasta in well-salted water for about 2 minutes less than you usually would. When you test it, it should be on the tender side, but have a firmer bite than al dente. This prevents the pasta from becoming overcooked when it bakes in the oven.

Drain well … and rinse?

If you plan to bake your pasta immediately, drain — but do not rinse – the pasta. If you are going to assemble it and bake it later, rinse it with cold water. Why? If you aren’t going to bake it right away you want to stop the cooking process. (You’ll also have to cool the remaining ingredients if you plan to bake it later; if you combine hot pasta with hot ingredients and let them sit at room temperature or in the fridge for an extended period of time all of the liquid will be absorbed by the pasta and it will get gluey and dry.)

Choose a fattier meat

If you are adding meat to your baked pasta, choose one with a little bit of fat. It will add flavour, and won’t dry out during cooking. Naturally, meats are cooked in advance with the other ingredients before assembling the pasta. Good choices are medium ground beef, sausage meat removed its casings or skinned, deboned chicken thighs.

Toss hot with hot, or cold with cold

If you are baking the pasta right away, go ahead and add the hot ingredients to the hot pasta and stir to coat. If you’re baking it later, wait until all the components have cooled to toss them together.

Evaluate the amount of liquid in your mixture

The liquid will finish cooking the pasta’s cooking process and act as sauce for the pasta. To test how much liquid you have, pour your mixture into your baking pan and use a spoon to pull aside some of the noodles. If you see some liquid pool in the bottom of the dish, you likely have enough. If there isn’t any liquid, add another cup of sauce or chicken stock, whatever the recipe calls for.

Taste, taste, taste

A common mistake is forgetting to taste something before putting it in the oven. All the components are cooked, so scoop yourself a little bowl and have a taste. Does it need salt? Pepper? If you want some spice … now’s the time for any last minute changes.

Hold the cheese

If your recipe calls to top with cheese, wait. Why? Because baked pastas should be baked covered for the first 20 minutes to prevent moisture loss. If you top it with cheese and then cover it, all the cheese will come off when you remove the cover. So after baking for 20 minutes under foil, remove foil, scatter with cheese and continue baking as per recipe instructions.

Broil (if needed)

Missing that golden crispy top? Slip it under the broiler, watching carefully for 2 to 3 minutes before serving. Enjoy!