If you love pasta and dishes that look impressive but are super easy to make then you’re going to love this vegetarian pasta pie recipe. It’s novel and looks so pretty. Whether you’re looking for a show stopper or a weeknight family dinner, this healthy pasta pie recipe promises not to disappoint.
Pasta pie is a simple recipe made with pasta tubes shaped in the style of a pie (often rigatoni but I used penne) and filled with a tomato based pasta sauce and topped with melted cheese.
This pasta pie recipe is one to make if you love to keep things easy in the kitchen but want something that looks impressive. The most time consuming part is standing all the pasta shells up, but think of it as a satisfying cooking meditation, then you can let it do it’s magic in the oven.
It’s called pasta pie because it uses pasta as its main ingredient (I used ZENB’s yellow split pea penne to make this vegetarian pasta pie recipe gluten and grain free) and is made in a round cake tin so it looks like the shape of a pie.
If you don’t eat dairy I’ve given vegan alternatives below. I also love to add veggies to my pasta pie to boost the nutritional content. I prefer making my own marinara sauce but this recipe works great also with high quality store-bought pasta sauce, something that ZENB is also looking to launch soon in the market so stay tuned!
Early records indicate that the first type of pasta pie was macaroni cheese, back in the 1700s. Thought to first come from Barbados, it spread across the Americas during the slave trade era then over to Europe. Variations like this Cheesy Vegetarian Pasta Pie developed from there. Some of the more recent variations include meat or vegetables like in a Bolognese sauce.
Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C / 170 fan.
Prepare the marinara sauce. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion, carrot and courgette (if adding) and sauté for 3 - 4 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and pepper and dried herbs. If using fresh, don’t add yet. Simmer on a low heat for 10 mins until nice and thick. Place a lid slightly ajar to stop it spilling on your kitchen tiles. Turn off the heat, add the fresh basil if adding and puree using a blender or stick blender until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ZENB Yellow Pea Penne and cook for about 10 minutes until just firmer than al dente. Drain, reserving a little pasta water, and toss with 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Option to thin pasta sauce with a little water (about 2 - 3 tbsp). This will actually help the pasta pie glue together a little more.
Grease a 7.5inch (H) x 5 inch (D) round springform cake pan with a little olive oil. Mix the marinara through the pasta then layer half of pasta into the bottom of the dish (so the penne is lying down. I also like to line the edges with a circle of penne.
Add a sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella to the first layer of pasta (about ⅓ of each of the total cheeses) then add another layer of pasta then place the pan onto a foil-lined baking sheet.
Add the rest of the parmesan or vegan parmesan and shredded mozzarella or vegan mozzarella and cover the tin with tin foil. This will help the cheese go all gooey!
Bake the Easy Vegetarian Pasta Pie for 30 minutes then remove the foil on top and bake it another 20 minutes until golden on top.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and slicing. Note the longer you leave it, the easier it is to slice but It’s best nicest warm so 5 minutes should be fine.
Replace fresh / tinned tomatoes and tomato puree with 4 - 4.5 cups store bought marinara. Make sure you pick a good quality flavoursome one. Option to leave out the carrot and veggies if you prefer.
Want to make your pasta pie jam packed with flavour? I recommend making the marinara sauce in the recipe above. It’s super easy as some store bought sauces can lack flavour, unless you know it will be a high quality sauce. I highly recommend using fresh basil too for maximum taste.
If you want to add extra nutrients to your pasta pie, I love to add some grated vegetables. Grating is best over chopping as it reduces down better so when you blitz it’s still a little chunky and fits into the pasta holes. I prefer a slightly chunky sauce with texture over blitzing until totally smooth but feel free to do as you love.
For a spicy kick, this pasta pie is also delicious with a little harissa folded into the sauce. Start with 1/4 tsp and adjust to your chilli o’meter!
If you’re not vegetarian / vegan you can totally add some meat to this recipe. I recommend frying up some chorizo or finely chopping up some cooked thin slices of salami or parma ham and adding to the marinara sauce before blitzing. Just be aware you may need less salt as these meats can be quite salty so adjust to taste.
How is Pasta Pie served?
Allow the pasta pie to cool for a minute or two before removing from the pan, but so it’s still warm. Top with a sprinkling of fresh parsley and slice with a sharp knife.
Suitable alternatives if you can’t find some ingredients?
If you can’t find fresh cherry tomatoes, you can use tinned tomatoes or if you’re short on time you can totally use a store bought marinara.
Can’t find fresh basil? Feel free to use dried instead.
Pasta Pie variations
Pasta Pies come in all shapes and flavours. You can make a pasta pie with meat, veggies or make it vegan.
Cheesy Vegetarian Pasta pie
I love to use a mix of shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan for the best meltable, stringy pasta pie. You can also use a grated cheddar, mozzarella mix if you prefer.
Cheesy vegan pasta pie
Feel free to substitute the shredded mozzarella with vegan shredded mozzarella (I like Violife foods) and the parmesan with a vegan parmesan (cashew or hemp based). It probably won’t melt as well as vegetarian cheese but tastes just as good!
Bolognese pasta pie
To make a bolognese version, simply fry up some ground beef with onion and once cooked, add to the blitzed marinara sauce.
Rigatoni pasta pie
Rigatoni is often used if you want a pasta pie where the sides stand up (as opposed to a layed down version I made today) because rigatoni has flat ends and is a wide tubular pasta which makes it easier to stand up. Penne with its slanted edges and thinner tubes don’t stand… tried and failed!
Penne pasta pie
This is the kind of pasta pie I made today. It’s quicker to make that Rigatoni pasta pie as you don’t need to faff about standing all the pasta up. Just mix through the sauce and layer flat into the tin. For those short on time, this is the Easy Pasta Pie for you!
What other pasta shapes go well with Pasta Pie?
I made this easy vegan Pasta Pie with ZENB’s Penne. Other popular pasta types for pasta pies include rigatoni and macaroni.
ZENB Also has a Macaroni if you’re looking to make a pasta pie with a different shape of pasta.
What to eat with Pasta Pie?
As Pasta Pie is quite rich and filling, it is best served with something light and fresh like a nice crisp salad (a simple rocket and watercress salad with some slices of avocado and an olive oil dressing works well), a slaw or a side of steamed green veggies, sautéed broccoli or roasted vegetables. It’s also great with a nice slice of sourdough bread to scoop up all that lovely tomato cheese sauce!
I love to serve pasta pie for a comforting main evening meal and any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for lunch the next day.
For meat lovers
If you love to add meat to your pasta pie, I recommend frying up some chorizo or finely chopping up some cooked thin slices of salami or parma ham and adding to the marinara sauce before blitzing. Just be aware you may need less salt as these meats can be quite salty so adjust to taste.
Alternatively, you can fry up some ground beef with onion and once cooked, add the blitzed marinara sauce.
This pasta pie is perfect as it is for vegetarians. I’ve added some veggies to the marinara for an additional nutrient boost and taste. Feel free to substitute the carrot for grated butternut or parsnip if you prefer . It’s best to grate the veggies so they mix well into the sauce.
To adapt this pasta pie for a vegan diet, simply replace the mozzarella with shredded vegan mozzarella and the parmesan with vegan parmesan (like cashew or hemp parmesan). Note it probably won’t melt as well as vegetarian cheese but still tastes super good.
For gluten free
Using ZENB’s Penne makes this pasta pie already gluten free so feel free to dive into the recipe!
What to drink with Pasta Pie?
As this is a rich comforting meal. Pasta pie pairs well with a lovely full bodied red wine. If you don’t drink alcohol, a nice fizzy alcohol free rose or sugar free prosecco wine is also nice.
When to best enjoy Pasta Pie?
Pasta pie is my favourite in the Winter months. It’s comforting and wholesome. It’s also great if you’re super hungry after a workout.
It’s one of those comforting meals to snuggle up with after a long day so I like to serve it as a main evening meal but any leftovers also work well for lunch the next day. Simply place the tupperware in the fridge for up to 4 days. Pasta pie can also be frozen and reheated for up to 3 months.
How to store Pasta Pie
This easy pasta pie recipe can be stored in tupperware in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
To reheat, allow to defrost in the fridge or at room temperature, or in the microwave if you prefer and then place in an oven proof bowl and reheat at 356F / 180 fan / 160C until piping hot in the middle. Option to reheat from frozen if you prefer.
How long does Pasta Pie last in the fridge?
In the fridge, pasta pie will last for at least 4 days… but I bet you don’t make it last that long. It’s so good!
Can Pasta Pie be frozen?
Pasta pie can indeed be frozen as it lasts well in the freezer for a good 3 months. Maybe even longer!
Can Pasta Pie be reheated?
Yes, pasta pie can be reheated. If reheating from the fridge, place in an ovenproof dish and reheat at 356F / 180C / 160 fan until hot in the middle. Alternatively, microwave until hot.
To reheat in the oven, you can remove the pasta pie from the freezer the night before and allow to defrost in the fridge or at room temperature, or if you’re short on time you can defrost in the microwave and then place in an oven proof bowl and reheat at356F / 180C / 160 fan until piping hot in the middle.
Option to heat in the microwave once defrosted too though I prefer things heated in the oven myself.
Option to reheat in the oven from frozen if you prefer.
What is the difference between Pasta Pie and Mac and Cheese?
Macaroni pie is a casserole dish based on baked macaroni pasta and cheese. Main ingredients include elbow macaroni, cheese and milk (though it can be made vegan friendly.)
Cacio e pepe is a stripped-back mac and cheese, consisting of just cheese and pepper and usually made with spaghetti.
Pasta pie, however, can be made using different shapes of pasta (not just macaroni) and can include a variety of fillings i.e. not just cheese, like with my marinara and cheese pasta pie.
What is the difference between Pasta Pie and Timballo?
Timballo is an Italian baked dish which can be made from pasta, rice, or potatoes, with one or more other ingredients (cheese, meat, fish, vegetables, even fruit). Pasta pie is made only using pasta, so no other grain carbohydrates as the main ingredient.
What is the difference between Pasta Pie and Pastitsio?
Pastichio is a Greek dish made with flavoursome beef ragu’ filling and topped with a velvety béchamel sauce. It’s a bit like lasagne but using tubular pasta. Pasta pie on the other hand, doesn’t have to contain meat or a bechamel type sauce and can be made using different pasta shapes.