Pasta

Pasta Al Forno (Baked Pasta)

January 5, 2020 by Emily

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Pasta al Forno is a super comforting and easy baked pasta recipe made with a rich tomato sauce, penne pasta, taleggio cheese and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs before being baked to perfection.

Seriously good comfort food…

An overhead shot of pasta al forno in a baking dish

Pasta al Forno literally translates as oven baked pasta.

It can be anything you like, a lot of Italian recipes include sausage or they can be meat-free with just veggies. They’re baked in a tomato or white based sauce and topped with lots of mozzarella cheese.

Since our sausage pasta bake is super popular (and absolutely delicious), I decided to make this recipe simple and meat-free but with loads of cheese…obviously.

Let me break down all the tips for you…

Making The Baked Pasta Sauce

The tomato sauce is super easy BUT like I always say it needs the highest quality tomatoes possible.

I used Cirio Passata Rustica which is the rustic, chunkier textured pureed or sieved tomatoes instead of the more commonly found silky smooth type.

Also, a lot of flavour is created in the first step so don’t miss it. Lightly fry the garlic with fresh basil, fennel seeds and oregano in a little olive oil, you’ll smell all the delicious flavours and after a couple of seconds the tomatoes are added….so much yum!

What Pasta to Use

For this pasta al forno recipe I used penne pasta but you can use any short pasta shape you like such as fusilli or rigatoni (ziti).

Top Tip: Although any short pasta shape will work well I don’t recommend using long pasta.

What Makes this Baked Pasta Extra Delicious?

Uggghh the taleggio cheese sauce…so delicious. 

The thing I love most about taleggio is that it keeps a strong flavour when it’s melted so you don’t end up with a bland cheese sauce. It takes this pasta al forno up to a whole new level of deliciousness.

How to Make Pasta al Forno – Step By Step

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for only 4-5 minutes (it’s important you don’t cook it any longer)

To make the sauce, fry the chopped garlic with the basil, fennel seeds and dried oregano in 1/2 tbsp of olive oil until fragrant. Add the passata rustica (chunky sieved tomatoes) and let it simmer for 10 minutes (photos 1 & 2).

Step by step photos for making pasta al forno

For this step by step process I used giant penne pasta (pennoni)

Next, make the cheese sauce by making a roux with butter and flour (see recipe card below for more details).

Add the milk slowly whilst whisking until it starts to thicken. Add the taleggio cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese has melted and is thick. Set aside (photos 4-6).

Add the pasta to the tomato sauce and stir until coated well. Transfer it to a baking dish then top with the taleggio cheese sauce. Finally top with breadcrumbs, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated parmesan (photos 7-9).

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasted and crispy.

Short on Time?

If you want to speed things up then you can skip the cheese sauce.

Toss the pasta in the tomato sauce and top with taleggio cheese and a ball of mozzarella then breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden and bubbling 20-30 minutes!

Variations and How to Adapt Pasta al Forno

  • You can follow this recipe with pretty much any sauce you like why not try our creamy vodka sauce or white bechamel sauce.
  • You can add in veggies such as zucchini (courgette), eggplant (aubergine), mushrooms and peppers.
  • A quick way to add in a punch of extra flavour is to add in some roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

A close up of a spoon holding some oven baked pasta with cheese oozing

Top Tips For Making Pasta al Forno;

  • Don’t cook the pasta for any more than 4-5 minutes. It bakes in the oven for 30 minutes so it’s important not to overcook it otherwise the pasta will be too soft.
  • If you don’t have taleggio use a good melting cheese such as fontina, gruyere or a mature cheddar.
  • Panko breadcrumbs work great here because they’re light and extra crispy but any kind of breadcrumbs will do.
  • You can add different herbs and spices such as parsley and chili flakes to switch it up.
  • Don’t want to go meat-free? You can add in pretty much any meat you like from crispy pancetta, sausage, chicken or beef. 

More Pasta Recipes You Might Like;

If you’ve tried this Pasta al Forno Recipe or any other recipe on the blog please let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

Watch How to Make it

Step By Step Photos AboveMost of our recipes come with step by step photos, helpful tips and tricks to make it perfectly first time and even video!
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5 from 7 votes

Pasta al Forno

Pasta al Forno is a super comforting and easy baked pasta recipe made with a rich tomato sauce, penne pasta, a creamy, cheesy taleggio cheese sauce and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs before being baked to perfection.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 658kcal
Author Emily Kemp

Ingredients

  • 4 cups penne pasta or any short pasta shape (14 oz/400g)

Tomato sauce

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil plus a drizzle for topping
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano dried
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 cups passata rustic chunky pureed tomatoes (1.7 lbs/800g)

Cheese Sauce

  • 4 tbsp butter (50g)
  • 1/3 cup plain flour (40g)
  • 1 2/3 cup milk (400ml)
  • 1/2 cup taleggio cheese cut into cubes (100g)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to season

Topping

  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (30g)
  • 1/2 tbsp parmesan freshly grated

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)
  • First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook it for 4-5 minutes only. Don't cook it any longer, drain and set aside. Add a drizzle of olive oil to stop the pasta stick once drained.
  • Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Fry the chopped garlic with the basil, fennel seeds and dried oregano with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil until fragrant. Add the passata rustica (chunky sieved tomatoes), a good pinch of salt and pepper and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
  • As the tomato sauce is simmering make the cheese sauce by making a roux with butter and flour in a seperate saucepan (see notes).
  • Add the milk slowly whilst whisking until it starts to thicken. Add the taleggio cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese has melted and is thick. Turn the heat off and set aside.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and stir until coated well. Transfer it to a baking dish then top with the taleggio cheese sauce. Finally top with breadcrumbs, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated parmesan.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasted and crispy.

Notes

Making a roux

  1. Add the butter to a saucepan on a medium heat. Once melted add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to form a paste.
  2. Stir the paste for 1-2 minutes to cook out the floury taste (important for the taste of the sauce). Next start by add the milk a little at a time whilst whisking to avoid any lumps.

Top Tips For Making This Tomato Pasta Bake;

  • Undercook the pasta by around 3 minutes so it doesn't overcook in the oven.
  • If you don't have taleggio use a good melting cheese such as fontina, gruyere or a mature cheddar.
  • Panko breadcrumbs work great here because they're light and extra crispy but any kind of breadcrumbs will do.
  • You can add different herbs and spices such as parsley and chili flakes to switch it up.
  • Don't want to go meat-free? You can add in pretty much any meat you like from crispy pancetta, sausage, chicken or beef. 

Nutrition

Calories: 658kcal | Carbohydrates: 103g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 616mg | Potassium: 889mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 1310IU | Vitamin C: 13.8mg | Calcium: 288mg | Iron: 5.8mg
Helpful Info for All Recipes
  • I always use extra virgin olive oil in all of my recipes unless stated otherwise
  • When I use canned or jarred tomatoes of any kind I always use this brand for the best results and flavour
  • All vegetables are medium sized unless stated otherwise
  • All recipes are tested and developed using a fan oven
  • Find out more about how nutrition is calculated here
  • Check out our must have Italian Pantry Staples here
  • You can also find all our Essential Kitchen Tools for Italian Cooking here
Did you try this recipe?Mention @insidetherustickitchen or tag #insidetherustickitchen! We'd love you see what you're getting up to in the kitchen!

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Jeannette
    January 6, 2020 at 12:40 am

    My mouth instantly watered! I know this will be such a hit at any party! Thanks for sharing such a delicious recipe!5 stars

  • Reply
    Maike
    January 6, 2020 at 12:39 am

    This recipe is so up my alley! There’s no better comfort food than cheesy pasta. Perfect during the cold winter months.5 stars

  • Reply
    Anita
    January 5, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    This is such a nice comfort food during the winter. My family will definitely devour the whole thing. 🙂5 stars

  • Reply
    Pam Greer
    January 5, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    Cheesy backed pasta is always a favorite at our house and the crunchy topping makes this one even more of a favorite!5 stars

  • Reply
    Kelly Anthony
    January 5, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    I love that I can make this tomato pasta bake two different ways depending on how much time I have that day and both are going to be equally delicious.5 stars

  • Reply
    Eden | Sweet Tea & Thyme
    September 1, 2018 at 1:18 am

    Oooh these photos SERIOUSLY made me hungry! Looks delish!5 stars

  • Reply
    Catherine Brown
    August 27, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    Ooooh, perfect comfort food! Look at all that creaminess! My family will love this. 🙂5 stars

  • Leave a Reply

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