Cooking pasta in an oven can be done in a variety of ways. Although lasagna is potentially the most well-known baked pasta, you can also bake spaghetti, mezze penne and many other pastas. Additionally, not all pastas need to be precooked before you put them in the oven.
Cooking Pasta in an Oven
There are many ways of cooking pasta in an oven. For certain dishes, like lasagna, baked ziti and million-dollar baked spaghetti, you need to use precooked pasta.
All of these dishes incorporate boiled pasta, a tomato-based sauce and cheese as the main components of their recipes. These ingredients are layered in lasagna and million-dollar baked spaghetti, but mixed together for baked ziti. However, all three are topped with some type of cheese.
In addition to these main ingredients, you might find other ingredients incorporated too. For example, you might add sausage to the baked spaghetti dish.
Alternatively, basil, mushrooms, spinach, onion and turkey might all be ingredients in a low-fat lasagna dish. The Mayo Clinic recommends consuming lean meats and poultry, like turkey, whenever possible to reduce your fat consumption.
Similarly, baked ziti can be made with a mixture of tofu and ricotta if you're keen on reducing your saturated fat intake. The American Heart Association recommends consuming less saturated fat when possible to maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Generally, the hardest part of cooking pasta in an oven is making sure that it isn't cooked for too long. When precooking the pasta, you usually want to make it al dente, or cooked until it's slightly softened but still firm and not mushy.
This is because it's typically cooked again for around 30 minutes once you put it in the oven. All of these dishes require heating at 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (176 to 205 degrees Celsius) for this duration to fully cook.
Cooking No-Boil Baked Pasta
If you're in a rush, you can actually cook pasta in an oven without precooking it. Lasagna sheets and cannelloni are particularly well-suited for being cooked in an oven.
In no-boil baked pasta recipes, you'd use similar ingredients to any other pasta dish, like tomato-based sauces, cheese and meat. You're also cooking the pasta at the same temperature (around 350 F).
However, the main difference is that you're incorporating uncooked pasta, rather than already boiled pasta. Because this pasta is uncooked, it needs a bit more liquid. Many recipes ask you to add extra water, milk, cream or tomato sauce to your pasta mixture. Don't worry if the mixture appears too runny — the liquid evaporates or is absorbed as the food cooks.
Because no-boil baked pasta dishes involve uncooked pasta, keep in mind that you'll need to cook them for a longer period of time. Pasta bakes and casseroles are fully cooked when they've reached an internal temperature of 165 F or 74 C.
Keep in mind that whole grain pasta can take longer to cook than refined pasta. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health considers whole-grain pasta to be healthier than refined pasta thanks to its dietary fiber content.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Whole Grains"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- Mayo Clinic: "How Meat and Poultry Fit in Your Healthy Diet"
- Academy of Nutrition and Deitetics: "Complete List of Cooking Temperatures"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Short Cut Lasagna"
- BBC Good Food: "How to Cook Pasta"