This delicious vegan pasta bake uses vegan ricotta cheese to create layers of creamy, comforting goodness. It’s a cozy, baked pasta dish that you can make with homemade staples, and it’s the epitome of wholesome comfort food!
This vegan pasta bake is proof of how helpful it is to have homemade staples in the fridge and freezer.
The pasta bake came about when I was testing out that 20-minute marinara sauce that I shared on Saturday.
I had tested a few batches, as I usually try to do in order to make sure that a recipe really works. I was planning to freeze some of what I had.
But since I needed a dinner plan for the week anyway, I wondered if there was a new recipe that I could try with the sauce.
We’re now in that wonderful moment between summer and fall. Vegetable-forward dishes that are bursting with color are still very fitting for the season.
Yet temperatures are dropping, and there’s a hint of fall now in the air. I, for one, am now thinking about cozy comfort foods for cooler days and nights.
Baked pasta is just about the most comforting comfort dish that I know of. And this is one of my favorites that I’ve tried.
Vegan ricotta for the best baked pasta
What truly makes this pasta bake work is not the sauce, but the vegan ricotta cheese.
I use my 10-minute vegan ricotta, which is now something that I routinely keep in the fridge or freezer.
The cheese uses a combination of raw cashews and firm tofu. I think that this creates the perfect ricotta texture: not too rich or dense, not too crumbly.
The ricotta has become the only vegan cheese that I use for stuffed shells, my vegan spinach lasagna rolls or regular lasagna, manicotti, and more. It’s also great for sweet or savory toast.
In this pasta bake, the vegan ricotta creates layers of rich, creamy goodness. It does this without the need for any store-bought dairy alternative.
The beauty of homemade vegan cheese
I really enjoy commercial vegan cheeses. This is especially true when it comes to cheese slices for sandwiches.
Good Planet American slices with thick slabs of local tomato on multigrain bread were just about my favorite lunch this past August.
Yet I’ve learned that homemade vegan cheese can be every bit as useful and tasty as store-bought equivalents. Sometimes, I enjoy their flavor and texture much more.
My pasta bake with ricotta is actually very illustrative of this.
I used to be on a never-ending quest to find the perfect, melty vegan cheese for lasagna and other baked pasta dishes.
But here, the vegan ricotta does everything that store-bought cheese shreds would do, and more. It unifies the dish and permeates it with richness.
Best of all, it does so without the greasy quality that some commercial vegan cheeses lend to food.
This summer, when I was experimenting with baked vegan feta pasta, I had no luck at all with store-bought feta. I enjoy that feta on salads, but when I put it into the oven, it melted into a puddle of oil.
My tofu vegan feta cheese, on the other hand, resulted in a tangy, textured, and very delicious meal.
So it is with this recipe, too. Whereas melty cheese shreds might be too oily, and commercial vegan ricotta (like the Kite Hill almond ricotta) might be too thick, the cashew + tofu ricotta is just right.
The vegan pasta bake is perfectly creamy without being heavy or gooey.
As an added bonus, the cashews add healthful, poly- and monounsaturated fat to the meal, while firm tofu adds a good amount of plant protein. This is a big win from a nutrition perspective!
How to make the best vegan pasta bake
With some homemade staples, some vegetables, and a box of pasta on hand, this pasta bake becomes an easy reality.
There are steps involved, but each one is manageable. Here’s how it all comes together.
Step 1: Prepare your homemade vegan staples
In other words, you’ll want to have your 20-minute marinara sauce and 10-minute vegan ricotta ready to go before you proceed with the pasta bake recipe.
You can prepare these directly before you make the pasta bake, or you can meal prep them in advance. Both the ricotta and the marinara can be frozen, so you could make them up to six weeks ahead of time.
When you’re ready for the pasta bake, just defrost the sauce and cheese and move on to the next step.
Step 2: roast your veggies
Yes, this is a pasta bake, but it’s a lot better (and more nutrient-dense) because sweet, roasted summer vegetables are involved.
These summer vegetables are my personal favorites: tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. With that said, this is a pasta dish that can be carried into other seasons.
Here are some other vegetables that you could roast and include in place of the ones specified in the recipe:
- Broccoli florets
- Cauliflower florets
- Winter squash
- Bell pepper
Those are in no particular order, but you get the idea: you can use the vegetables that you have and love.
Assuming you use the zucchini, eggplant, and grape tomatoes called for, you’ll roast them with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes, or until they’re tender and juicy.
This step, too, can be done ahead of time. Store the roasted vegetables for a couple days in the fridge before using in the pasta bake.
Step 3: Cook your pasta
While your vegetables roast, bring a big, salted pot of water to a boil. Cook your pasta as directed.
For this pasta bake, I recommend a medium pasta shape. That could be:
- Larger-cut shells (like these)
Step 4: Assemble
At this point, you’ll simply layer your cooked pasta, ricotta, and marinara sauce in a lightly oiled, 9×13″ rectangle pan.
The layering process doesn’t need to be at all neat. I just spoon the ricotta into my layers in big dollops.
When you reach your final layer, you can swirl and smooth the ricotta and the marinara sauce on top of the pasta.
Step 5: Cashew parmesan
Sometimes I top a lasagna or other baked pasta dish with vegan cheese shreds. But as I mentioned above, I think that the real beauty of this recipe is that homemade vegan cheeses work so well for it.
I like to dust the top of the vegan pasta bake with a light layer of my cashew parmesan cheese. It’s a perfect finish and adds just the right extra savoriness to the recipe.
In place of the cashew parmesan, you could use:
- Store bought vegan parmesan cheese
- Nutritional yeast
Step 6: Bake
Now it’s time to bake the pasta!
You’ll bake it covered for 20 minutes and uncovered for another 15-25. You’ll know the pasta bake is ready when it’s bubbling at the edges and crisping on the top.
Cut into portions and dig in—or store the pasta bake for the week.
Meal prep and storage
Speaking of that, the vegan pasta bake is a great option for weekly meal prep. Portions will keep in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days.
They can be frozen for up to 8 weeks.
Can the pasta bake be made gluten-free?
Of course! Use any favorite gluten-free pasta in place of traditional pasta for the recipe.
If you’d like to give the meal a little more plant protein, you can use a legume-based pasta.
My favorite of those these days is Tolerant lentil pasta or Barilla Protein+, which includes whole grains and chickpea flour.
Can I substitute the 10-minute vegan ricotta cheese?
Yes, you can absolutely substitute the vegan ricotta in the recipe.
Here are some options:
- Store-bought vegan ricotta (such as Kite Hill)
- Tofu ricotta (no nuts) or tofu feta
- My simple, go-to cashew cheese
How to serve vegan pasta bake
You can truly serve this vegan pasta bake with any side dishes that you like.
I really enjoy it with a big, summery green salad and some of my Greek vinaigrette.
It’s also lovely with:
- Roasted asparagus or baby broccoli
- Garlicky, sautéed kale or broccoli rabe
- Kale salad
- Sliced, fresh summer tomatoes with olive oil and a drizzle of syrupy balsamic
- Grilled zucchini
- Sautéed spinach
No matter how you serve it, the dish will be oh-so filling and flavorful.
Here’s the recipe.
- 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces
- 1 small eggplant, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (340g)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra for oiling your baking dish)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 12 ounces medium sized pasta shape
- 1 batch 20-minute marinara sauce (or 4 1/2 cups/1070ml store-bought marinara sauce of choice)
- 1 batch 10-minute vegan ricotta cheese (2 cups/225g store-bought vegan ricotta cheese )
- 1/4 cup cashew parmesan cheese (or a store-bought vegan parmesan cheese)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Arrange the zucchini, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, or until all are tender and the eggplant is browning. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
- While the vegetables roast, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions.
- Lightly oil a 9 by 13- inch/24 by 36cm rectangle pan. Spread a half cup (120ml) of the marinara sauce lightly across the bottom.
- Drain the cooked pasta. Spread one third of the pasta in the baking dish, followed by a third of the vegetables. Dollop 2/3 cup of the vegan ricotta over the pasta and vegetables, followed by 1 1/3 cups marinara sauce. Repeat this twice. Use the back of a spatula or spoon to lightly spread and swirl around the marinara and vegan ricotta along the top when you finish layering. Then, sprinkle this layer with the vegan parmesan cheese.
- Cover the pasta with foil and bake it for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15-25 minutes, or until bubbling at the edges and crisping on the top. Cut into slices and serve or store.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of having leftovers of a hearty casserole in the fridge. These dishes make generous portions, and they’re a wonderful, grounding thing to reach for when life feels especially hectic.
I know that September tends to be a whirlwind for many, and I’m feeling it right now myself. Hope this pasta bake will help to keep you happily fed through all of it.