Whether you use leftover pasta and pizza toppings, or start from scratch, pizza baked pasta is delicious and easy to make. Everyone loves it!
Why you’ll love it: It’s easy to customize with your favorite pizza toppings.
How long it takes: 15 minutes to prep, 25 minutes in the oven
Equipment you’ll need: baking dish, oven, sharp knife
A cheesy pasta bake, with all the flavors of pizza, is guaranteed to be a hit! And really, this casserole is so easy to make, especially if you have leftover plain pasta.
If you’ve made a pizza lately, maybe you ended up with just a handful of pepperoni, a smidge of ham, a few mushrooms or peppers, half a jar of sauce, and maybe even extra cheese. True confession: I usually end up adding all the cheese I have, because the cheesier, the better, right?
Maybe you happen to have leftover plain pasta. I always seem to make too much pasta. I mean, who doesn’t throw the whole box of pasta into the water? I hate all those odds and ends in the pantry, don’t you? Did you know you can easily freeze cooked plain pasta in a bag? It’s super easy to thaw – just rinse it in a colander with hot water.
This week, I took a look at my fridge and found: leftover pepperoni and mozzarella from making these pizza paninis, leftover pasta from chicken cacciatore. I thought, hmmm… I can make a really good hot dish with this. And that’s just what I did!
About This Recipe
This recipe started out as a way to use up leftover plain pasta I happened to have but don’t worry if you don’t have leftover pasta! You can use any kind of pasta; just cook it and you’re ready to make this easy pasta casserole.
You’ll find the printable recipe card at the end of this post, with complete directions and nutrition information.
What you’ll need
- Pasta: any kind, whole wheat, gluten-free, whatever you like or happen to have in your pantry or fridge. Noodles, spaghetti, ziti, rotini, it’s all fine.
- Pizza sauce: Use a can or jar from your pantry and add as much as you like. You’ll need at least one and a half cups. Homemade pizza sauce is great, too!
- Pepperoni and Ham: These two meats are easy because they’re pre-cooked. Make it vegetarian and leave out the meat.
- Cheese: Mozzarella because it is a pizza casserole, and Parmesan because it adds great flavor. If you’re craving something different, try provolone.
- Spinach: A handful or two of spinach adds nutrition and color. I like to add spinach to everything. If you don’t care for it, try other veggies like bell peppers, mushrooms, or onions but sauté them first. Olives are great, too.
- Grape or Cherry Tomatoes: Halve them and stir them into the casserole. They add a nice texture and flavor but if you don’t have them, don’t worry.
How To Make This Baked Pasta
Okay, are you ready? Preheat the oven, grease or spray a baking pan, and mix everything together in a big bowl (reserve a half cup of cheese to sprinkle on top).
Put it into the baking dish and top with remaining cheese.
It doesn’t get much easier than that!
And it’s so good!
Really, any type of pasta can be baked. I like to choose a short pasta, such as penne, ziti, or shells. If you’re using leftover pasta, spaghetti is fine! If you want, chop the long strands into smaller pieces so it’s easier to mix (and eat!).
The type of cheese you use depends on the recipe you’re making. For this easy pizza bake, use cheese that is usually on pizzas, i.e. mozzarella and Parmesan. If you’re making a lasagna type dish, include ricotta. For mac and cheese, use a sharp cheddar. For a Florentine type pasta bake with spinach, try Monterey Jack or Swiss.
The main criteria is to use a cheese that melts well and is flavorful!
This is a matter of preference. Some of us really dig the brown crusty pasta on top of a baked pasta dish. If you prefer a softer, more gooey cheesy texture, cover the casserole with foil while baking to keep the top from drying out.
Make It Your Own
This pizza baked pasta is so easy to customize. Use what you happen to have in the house. Make it just how you like it! Here’s a few suggestions:
- Use any kind of pasta you want. Long, short, skinny, fat, whole wheat, gluten-free … it doesn’t matter. If you have more than 8 oz. of pasta, add extra sauce and cheese and make a larger casserole.
- Add any meat you like: pepperoni (slices, chunks, or mini-sized), ham, cooked Italian sausage (it’s really, really good with sausage!), browned ground beef or turkey, salami, shredded chicken, whatever. Or go vegetarian and skip the meat.
- What kind of veggies do you like on your pizza? Anything goes! Add them raw or sauté them briefly before adding them. Olives and pepperoncini are good, too!
- Don’t have mozzarella? Use a different kind of cheese. Monterey Jack is similar to mozzarella or just use a mild cheddar. We also love provolone in this recipe!
- How about sauce? Do you have leftover marinara or spaghetti sauce? That works! How about Alfredo? I haven’t tried pesto in this casserole but I think that would be great!
If you love this pasta casserole, plan ahead so you have plain pasta already made. If you’re making a spaghetti dinner, why not make double the pasta you need? The big pot of water is boiling and it’s easy to make extra pasta. Drain it and put the extra into a freezer safe container or bag. Pop it into the freezer and it’s all ready for a casserole. To thaw it out, put the frozen pasta into a colander in the sink and run hot water over it. It’s so easy!
Here’s another idea: This pizza baked pasta freezes really well. Make two pans of it and freeze one pan, unbaked. When you’re in the mood or need a quick dinner, thaw it overnight in the fridge and bake as directed. Perfect for those nights when you know you aren’t going to have time to cook.
More easy pasta dishes
- EASIEST Baked Macaroni and Cheese (the best!)
- Baked Feta Pasta Recipe (with vegan option)
- Creamy Chicken Spaghetti ; one pan, endless variations!
- Pizza Pasta — 1 pan, 6 ingredients, 20 minutes (this one’s not baked)
- Taco Pasta — one pan, healthy, 30 minutes
- Skillet Gnocchi with Chicken and Tomato Sauce (whole wheat)
- Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta — cheesy ranch perfection
- Instant Pot Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
- Instant Pot Shrimp Scampi Pasta
- 8 oz. pasta (see note), cooked and drained
- 1 1/2 cups pizza sauce
- 4 oz. pepperoni, sliced and quartered
- 4 oz. deli ham, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 9 x 13 inch baking dish by spraying lightly with cooking spray.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese to put on top of the pasta.
- Place in prepared baking dish and top with remaining mozzarella cheese. If you prefer the top of the casserole to be softer and not browned, cover the pan with foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray while baking.
- Bake until heated through and cheese is melted, about 25 minutes.
- Any type of pasta can be used, including leftover pasta. If desired, choose whole wheat or gluten-free pasta. If using uncooked pasta, allow an extra 15 minutes to make this recipe as you’ll need to cook pasta in boiling water before continuing with recipe.
- Recipe is easy to customize. Add your favorite pizza ingredients or more cheese, if you like. Make it vegetarian by omitting the meat.
- To decrease sodium content, choose a low sodium pizza sauce (or make your own), and replace ham and pepperoni with ground beef or turkey.
- Make Ahead: Prepare pasta casserole but don’t bake. Refrigerate or freeze. Bake as directed (if frozen, thaw overnight in refrigerator).
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.