How to Have Cheesy Baked Pasta on the Table in Under an Hour


Given the proper time and space to sing the virtues of cheesy baked pasta, we could go on ad nauseam. Affordability, ease and the undeniable comfort that diners reap from a generous spoonful of hot-from-the-oven noodles and cheese are just a few reasons worth incorporating this age-old comfort dish into your weeknight dinner rotation. While it’s rare to encounter a baked pasta that’s difficult to assemble, these are just a few of our easiest, quickest and most-satisfying recipes.

Baked Ziti

With its lush blanket of bubbling-hot cheese, Robert Irvine’s traditional Baked Ziti is one weekday indulgence we’re always willing to set aside time for. Most of the prep work involves the stove top — for boiling the pasta and sauteeing the onions, garlic and tomatoes. If you preheat your oven at the onset, the dish will be ready in 55 minutes, as promised. Just pour the cooked ziti and sauteed vegetables into your baking dish and top it with mozzarella and bake until the cheese has melted down.

Baked Mac and Cheese

Food Network Kitchen’s Baked Mac and Cheese is ready in just 50 minutes, but most of that time is spent waiting for the dish to heat up in the oven. In classic Southern style, it’s set in a light egg custard and flavored with sharp yellow Cheddar. Creamy and moist, it bridges the gap between those who like their mac and cheese sliceable and those who prefer to spoon it, oozing, from the pot.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

For a weeknight dinner with extra protein, try this winning combination of tender pastina and juicy baked chicken. Before you pop the casserole dish in the oven, sprinkle the top with a mixture of breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan. The buttery, salty crumb tames the acidity of the tomato sauce.

Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce

The key to pulling off this decadent baked pasta dish in just 55 minutes is all in the bechamel sauce — a quick and creamy mixture of butter, flour and whole milk that makes the perfect rich coating for the rigatoni and prosciutto.

Beef and Cheese Manicotti

Bursting with meaty, robust flavor, this traditional manicotti is the pinnacle of Italian comfort food. Don’t be daunted by rolling the noodles — all it takes is some simple sleight of hand, so even first-timers can have it ready in under an hour.

Cheesy Baked Tortellini

When you’re especially pressed for time, don’t feel bad falling back on pre-made ingredients. Even Giada De Laurentiis uses store-bought tortellini to shave time off of this savory amalgam of pasta, mozzarella and sauce. The result? A deliciously cheesy pasta bake that’s ready in just 45 minutes.