Baked Penne with Roasted Veggies – This cozy baked ziti is loaded with vegetables and tastes amazing. The perfect meatless family dinner! (Gluten-Free + Vegan-Friendly)
I’ve been craving a rainy day lately. Since it hardly ever rains here in the desert, and we’re having one of the hottest/driest years on record (thanks for nothing global warming!), a rainy day feels like a cozy gift.
I love hearing the rain drizzling outside, putting on a nostalgic movie (You’ve Got Mail forever!) or a soft playlist, and taking to my kitchen to mix up a batch of cookies, stir up some soup, or bake a comforting all-in-one meal like this Baked Penne with Roasted Veggies.
This vegetarian baked penne dish has been a long-time favorite at our house, and even though my kids still pick around the veggies, I don’t stop making it since the cozy comforting pasta dish tastes amazing. *Especially* on a cold or rainy day. It’s the perfect kind of meatless dinner–delicious, satisfying, and packed with vegetables.
Here’s what you need to get started on this cozy baked penne with roasted veggies…
HERE’S WHAT GOES INTO MY BAKED PENNE WITH ROASTED VEGGIES:
- PASTA (MINE’S GLUTEN-FREE!) I started making this dish back when I was a newlywed (back in 2008!), so I know that it works with both traditional pasta and gluten-free pasta. These days, we always use brown rice gluten-free penne for this dish.
- MARINARA SAUCE. To keep things simple, I usually use a store-bought jar of marinara sauce. You can use any red pasta sauce your family enjoys. It’ll just add some delicious flavor and tie everything together.
- ROASTED VEGGIES. The star of the show here is a combination of simply roasted veggies. I typically use two colors of bell pepper, some onion, and mushrooms. The combination is hearty and satisfying without feeling heavy. (See the next section for other veggie ideas!)
- FRESH + FROZEN VEGGIES. To go with our roasted veggies, I like adding fresh spinach (it’ll wilt in the oven) and some frozen peas for another little pop of green. The combination is really lovely!
- A LITTLE CHEESE OR VEGAN CHEESE. Then, so keep this extra cozy, I top my baked penne and roasted vegetables with some mozzarella (in our pre-dairy-free days) or dairy-free mozzarella. If you’re dairy-free, our favorite DF mozzarella is Daiya Cutting Board Mozzarella. (We don’t like their other varieties of vegan mozzarella, JUST the cutting board variety!)
4 WAYS TO CHANGE UP THIS BAKED PENNE WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES:
MIX UP THE VEGGIES. You can absolutely play with the veggies here. Zucchini or summer squash is tasty, and we’ve added carrots a few times. Feel free to use whatever needs to be used up in your crisper drawer!
TRY IT WITH SAUSAGE OR MEAT. Naturally, this is only a good option if you eat meat! We sometimes add cooked crumbled sausage to our baked penne to fill it out a little more. But you can certainly make this using a meat sauce instead of marinara, or try adding in your favorite sliced or cooked ground sausage.
ADD A LITTLE KICK. To give this baked penne some kick, try adding a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes or experimenting with using a spicy marinara sauce instead. It can be so tasty with a little zing!
STIR IN SOME FRESH HERBS. Another way to add a layer of flavor is by mixing in a little fresh basil. 2-3 Tbsp. goes a long way in this dish, or you can use 1-2 Tbsp. on top as a garnish after it comes out of the oven. It’s up to you!
FAQ + TIPS AND TRICKS FOR THE BEST PENNE WITH ROASTED VEGGIES:
UNDERCOOK YOUR PASTA! Please believe me when I tell you to undercook the pasta. Undercooking helps prevent your pasta from turning mushy when baked. You want to pull it out of the pot and drain it when there’s still a little bite left since it will continue to cook in the sauce in the oven. (Just subtract 1-2 minutes from the boiling time and you should be good to go!)
WHAT’S THE BEST GLUTEN-FREE PASTA TO USE FOR THIS? Our favorite gluten-free penne is Jovial’s brown rice penne. It has a great texture and a nice neutral flavor. Plus there are 5g of protein per 2oz serving! Our second favorite brand is Tinkyada.
CAN I MAKE THIS AS A FREEZER MEAL? You can totally turn your baked penne into a freezer meal. You can even divide the dish in half–cook half now, and half later! To freeze it, I recommend using a flexible aluminum baking tray since they fair better in the freezer and oven than using your ceramic or metal pans. Prepare as directed, slightly undercooking the pasta, mixing with the sauce and veggies, and sprinkling with cheese. Once it’s prepped you’ll cover it with foil and you can pop it in the freezer for about 2 months. To bake from frozen, simply put in the oven and add 5-10 minutes to the baking time. If you’re not using a flexible baking pan, put it in a COLD oven rather than a preheated one to prevent your pans from cracking or warping.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BAKED PENNE WITH ROASTED VEGGIES. I love that there are already some veggies mixed into this baked penne recipe, so you can keep things simple on the side. Feel free to go with pasta stand-bys, like garlic bread or rolls, green salad, or some fresh fruit.
CRAVING MORE? YOU MIGHT LIKE:
- Italian Chopped Salad with Italian Dressing
- Easy 4-Ingredient Lasagna (Gluten-Free + Dairy-Free Friendly)
- Instant Pot Gluten-Free Pasta
- Dairy-Free Chicken & Vegetable Risotto
- Chipotle Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls
- Butternut Squash Curry