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Overhead view of pasta al forno in a round cast iron pan.

Pasta Al Forno

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5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Lexi
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


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! 


Units Scale
  • 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)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F / 190˚C. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  2. 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.
  3. Stir in the eggplant and the ground meat and use a wooden spoon to break it up and cook until browned.
  4. Stir in tomato paste, red wine, chopped olives, fresh parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. 
  5. Pour in marinara sauce, add in the cooked pasta, and stir well. 
  6. 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