This meaty, cheesy pasta al forno (baked pasta) is a flavorful, hearty, filling weeknight dinner that the whole family will love! We've included both a vegan and a regular option for families like ours with multiple dietary choices. Either way you make it, it's a serious crowd pleaser!
- 12 ounces penne, rotini or rigatoni pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced (~1 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2-3 cloves)
- 1 lb. ground beef (or 12 ounces plant-based ground meat)
- 2 cups diced eggplant
- 1/4 cup dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Pinot Noir, etc)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped and pitted kalamata olives
- 1 25 ounce jar of marinara sauce
- 8-12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese (vegan or regular)
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚C. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
- Add olive oil to a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat, then add onion and sauté for 5-6 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the eggplant and the ground meat and use a wooden spoon to break it up and cook until browned.
- Stir in tomato paste, red wine, chopped olives, fresh parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour in marinara sauce, add in the cooked pasta, and stir well.
- If you aren't using an oven-safe skillet, transfer mixture to a 9 x 13” baking dish and top with cheese. (If you are using an oven-safe skillet, keep it in the same pan). Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Ground meat: If you're not vegan, ground beef, chicken or turkey all work here, although ground beef would be best. Italian sausage is also a great option. If you are vegan, opt for a plant-based ground beef alternative (we used Impossible meat!). It cooks exactly the same, so no extra steps required.
Mozzarella: Again, regular shredded mozzarella is great if you're not vegan. If you are vegan, simply swap in a nondairy alternative! You can also use fresh mozzarella if preferred.
Make ahead, bake later: You can make the meat sauce up to a few days ahead of time. When you're ready to bake, toss with cooked pasta, top with cheese and bake.
Storage: Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the oven or microwave.
Freezer instructions: You can freeze individual portions or the entire pasta bake. Make sure to store in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months (although it will be best within 3 months). Transfer to the refrigerator to defrost for several hours or overnight, then reheat in the oven or microwave until warmed through.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American Italian
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
- Calories: 318
- Sugar: 6.6 g
- Sodium: 737.6 mg
- Fat: 9.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 37.9 g
- Fiber: 5.2 g
- Protein: 20.2 g
Keywords: pasta al forno