Easy No-Boil Pasta Bake

By: Amber Goulden, NTC

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This no-boil pasta bake is the perfect weeknight dinner! Simply mix uncooked pasta, sauce, Italian sausage, and spinach together, then bake for a cozy, comforting dinner.

no boil pasta bake with sausage and spinach

If I told you you could have cheesy baked pasta goodness with less than 10 minutes of work, would you believe me? Let me tell you, it's possible! For me, this is the ultimate low-effort dinner. It's easy enough to make when you're in a pinch (didn't get to meal prep, had to work late, etc) but also satisfying enough to make just-because.

What makes this pasta bake so easy? It doesn't require any pre-cooking! You don't have to boil the pasta noodles, brown the ground beef, or chop any vegetables. Instead, the noodles will cook in the oven, we use sliced, pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage for protein, and frozen chopped spinach for an added veggie.

No-Boil Pasta Bake Ingredients

The key to making recipes with simple ingredients great is to make sure that you are using high-quality ingredients to start with. Here's what you'll need to make this easy pasta bake:

  • Penne Pasta – We successfully made this dish with two types of gluten-free pasta – Jovial and Tinkyada. Both held up great, so you should be able to use any variety of penne (gluten-free or not) in this dish!
  • Pasta Sauce – Since this is a simple dish, you'll want to use your favorite pasta sauce here to really up the flavor. We recommend Rao's, Primal Kitchen Foods, or pulling out any homemade sauce stashed away in your freezer!
  • Chicken Broth – Most no-boil pasta bakes call for water, but we opted for broth to add a bit more flavor.
  • Heavy Cream – Just 1/2 a cup of heavy cream helps add a delicious richness to the pasta. If you're dairy-free, you can substitute full-fat coconut milk or cashew cream in its place.
  • Pre-Cooked Italian Sausage – To prevent you from having to add the step of cooking the protein, we opted for pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage here, though any pre-cooked sausage will do!
  • Frozen Chopped Spinach – We found that frozen, defrosted spinach worked better in this recipe than fresh because you're able to squeeze all the water out before cooking.
  • Cheese – Topping the bake with mozzarella or Italian blend cheese leaves it with a perfectly cheesy crust you won't be able to get enough of!
uncooked penne pasta in a glass baking dish on a marble surface
sausage being added to no-boil pasta bake
broth being poured over easy pasta bake in a glass dish on a marble surface
sauce being poured over no-boil pasta bake
ingredients for easy pasta bake being mixed together in a glass baking dish on a marble surface
unbaked no boil pasta bake after being mixed together, in a glass dish on a marble surface

How to Make This Easy Pasta Bake

Once you have all of your ingredients together, all you have to do is stir them together right in the pan – you don't even need to dirty another dish! Here's what to do:

  1. Add the ingredients to a 3-quart, 9×13 baking dish. Simply add all ingredients but the spinach and cheese (so, noodles, sausage, broth, pasta sauce, seasonings, and heavy cream) to a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  2. Stir them together. Mix everything together in the dish until the sauce is fully combined, then spread into an even layer.
  3. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. This is important! The foil needs to be on very tight to make sure that the pasta can steam. If too much steam gets out, the sauce will start to evaporate and the pasta won't cook properly.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes. Once the pasta is covered, bake it at 400 F for 40 minutes.
  5. Stir in the spinach and top with cheese. After 40 minutes, you'll remove the pasta from the oven, take off the lid, and stir in the spinach. We opted to add the spinach in at the end so that it doesn't wind up brown and overcooked. Then, sprinkle the cheese over top.
  6. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Return the pan to the oven to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is browned and bubbly, then remove from the oven and serve!

spoonful of cheesy no boil pasta bake hovering over a glass baking dish filled with cheesy pasta

Can I freeze this pasta bake?

Yes, this pasta bake will freeze great! If you'd like to freeze a whole pasta bake, we recommend baking it in a freezable container (like this one) for 40 minutes but skipping the final baking step. Instead, after baking for 40 minutes, you'll stir in the spinach, top with cheese, then let it sit for about an hour before covering and freezing. Once you're ready to reheat it, bake for 40 minutes, covered, in a 350°F oven, then and additional 15-20 minutes uncovered, until the cheese is browned and bubbly.

If you'd like to freeze individual portions, just bake the pasta all the way through, then spoon into freezer-safe containers. You can reheat individual portions by microwaving for 3-4 minutes, or by baking at 350°F for about 20 minutes.

What can I serve with this pasta bake?

Here are a few of our favorite sides that are perfect to serve with this dish!

  • Roasted Veggies – put these on a tray on the bottom rack while the pasta bakes to save time.
  • Arugula Salad with Lemon & Sea Salt – this simple salad is a great way to round out your meal, and only takes 5 minutes!
  • The Wedding Salad – This side salad has mixed greens, bacon, goat cheese, pecans, and a pesto ranch dressing – it'll convert salad haters into salad lovers.
  • Winter Veggie Coleslaw – this coleslaw is a great spin on the traditional side salad, is packed with nutrients, and looks absolutely gorgeous!
  • Roasted Balsamic Bacon Brussels Sprouts – you can also roast these sprouts on the bottom rack while your pasta cooks, they are perfectly crisp and just a bit tangy from the balsamic vinegar.

Pasta Bake with Spinach & Sausage (No Boil!)

This pasta bake requires no pre-cooking or boiling, and makes for a delicious and comforting dinner!

  • Author: Amber Goulden
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Italian



12 ounces penne (we recommend this one for gluten-free)
24 ounces pasta sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 ounces pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch coins (we used this one)
9 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
1 1/2 cups shredded Italian cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Add the pasta, sauce, broth, cream, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sausage to a 9×13 pan and stir the ingredients until well combined.
3. Cover the dish as tightly as you can with foil. The foil must be tight in order to steam the pasta. Then, place it in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.
4. After 40 minutes, remove the foil and test the pasta for doneness, if it is still a bit tough, cover and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. If the pasta is fully cooked, stir in the defrosted spinach, sprinkle the mozzarella over top and bake an additional 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and browned.

Keywords: no boil, gluten free, pasta, one pot

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Recipe rating

  1. Hillary says:

    Could this be adapted to an instant pot? Nervous about the pasta not cooking all the way through.

    1. Anita says:

      The pasta will definitely cook all the way through. I have been making my lasagne, using dry noodles, for years. The liquid absorbs into the pasta as it bakes enhancing the flavor and keeps it from being soggy.

    2. Brenda says:

      Oh! Pasta cooks wonderfully in the instant pot! Dump and go. Just add your liquids to the bottom so you don’t get a burn signal. Don’t stir too much. 5-6 minutes is good.

    3. Brenda says:

      Oh! Yessss it cooks fully in the oven! Tasted great

  2. Anne L. Sullivan says:

    Any ideas for substitutions for the sausage for vegetarians?

    1. Carmen says:

      Beyond Italian Sausage (plant based) would work perfectly!

  3. Heather says:

    Um, holy cow this is delicious!! So, so easy to throw together! Definitely keeping it in the rotation.

  4. Barbara says:

    I didn’t have the chicken sausage on hand so I browned ground Italian sausage. This dish came together quickly and easily and tasted great. No issue with the pasta cooking — I actually used a double layer of foil because that’s how I bake my rice and it’s perfect every time. Bonus: my family ate spinach!!!

  5. Rebecca says:

    This turned into mush in a pan. My not picky at all, always starving, teenager won’t even touch it.

  6. Allea says:

    Just a note. I made this for a friend with regular pasta, and it took about 20 minutes more for the pasta to cook. But otherwise it’s easy and delicious!

  7. Keeley says:

    What an amazing recipe, from an amazing group of women!!

    I followed the recipe to a T and used arrabiata sauce for spice and it was amazing!

    This will definitely become a staple

  8. Lola says:

    Can chickpea pasta be used and will it require a different bake time?

    1. Kellie says:

      I made this with lentil pasta and it came out great. No differences in timing. My husband and I both loved it and we’ll definitely be making it again.

  9. Giovanna says:

    My whole family loved it! My 3 year old said thank you for making it. Delicious, easy and balanced. Thank you.

  10. Marilyn says:

    Made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious!! Thank you , Cassy, for this fabulous recipe! Sharing it with my friends! It’s absolutely perfect for a chilly night .

    5.0 rating

  11. Andrea says:

    If I wanted to make ahead for my husband to bake while I’m at work would I bake it first then just have him reheat it for 15-20 min?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      That would work great, Andrea! Enjoy!

  12. Jessica LaBello says:

    So, so good!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      So glad you loved it, Jessica!!

  13. Anne says:

    That was delicious and so easy to make, thanks for sharing! Used chorizo instead of sausage and it turned out great.

    5.0 rating

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Awesome…so glad you enjoyed it, Anne! What a yummy protein swap!

  14. Kristen says:

    This was amazing! I omitted the cheese and heavy cream/milk and it still turned out perfect. I think it has even more flavor than traditional pasta and meat sauce from cooking the noodles in the sauce.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      That’s so great to hear! Thank you for sharing this with us, Kristen!

  15. Aleta says:

    Delicious! I used HOT sausage that I cooked up ahead of time and fresh spinach. I omitted the salt, because the hot sausage had plenty already. I even screwed up the cooking time and my picky family (who cannot rely on my cooking, bless their hearts) gave it two thumbs up!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      SO happy to hear how much your family loved the pasta bake, Aleta! Thank you for sharing this with us!

  16. Hillary says:

    This is such a hearty, easy meal! Husband approved and I really appreciate how quickly it goes together at 8 months pregnant!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Wahoo!!! So glad you loved it, Hillary! It’s definitely one of my very favorite recipes. Sending you and your soon-to-be little one well wishes!

  17. Natalie says:

    So easy and tasty! Made this twice already for my family and once for a new mom. Big hit all around! (Once I made it with ground beef and it was just as good!)

    5.0 rating

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Agreed! It’s one of my very favorite recipes, Natalie…SUPER easy + tasty! We’re so glad you enjoyed it!

  18. Gwen says:

    Any adjustments needed to sub fresh spinach for the frozen?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Nope! The fresh spinach may release a little bit of water (since we squeeze the water out of the frozen spinach), but it should still be fine! Enjoy, Gwen!

  19. Kristen H. says:

    Could you freeze this dish if assembled but not baked? Trying to plan freezer meals for a friend and this looks great! Thank you!!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Hmmm…I’m not sure how the raw pasta would freeze. I’d bake it first and then freeze it!

  20. Its Only Monday says:

    Delicious, so easy to make and a HIT with my kids! Used a disposable foil pan for even easier busy weeknight cleanup. Definitely going into our regular meal rotation.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Score! So glad to hear that!

  21. Kassandra says:

    Quick, one pan, and delicious, what more can you ask for in a recipe? Pasta was cooked perfectly and the flavors are amazing! My husband requested seconds and even my toddlers enjoyed it!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Score! That’s so awesome, Kassandra…thank you for sharing this with us!

  22. Emily S. says:

    Ok. I need to comment on this recipe. I love a good one pot dish and this exceeded my expectations! It was easy and amazing, a win win! I followed the recipe exactly for two modifications – I used regular rotini because I needed to use it up and I used a fitted lid instead of foil. It came out PERFECT. Adding this to recipe rotation 🙂 thanks!

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Awesome! We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Emily. Thank you for the comment!

  23. JoJo says:

    Have you tried this with banza pasta?

  24. Megan says:

    So good! A kid favorite in our house.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Score!! So glad to hear that, Megan!

  25. Marisa says:

    I’m obsessed with this recipe because it is just sooo easy! I have your cook book and am wondering how to take the “no cook pasta” concept to the all the recipes – liked chicken tetrazzini or chicken marsala casserole. Any ideas?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      It takes a lot of experimenting, Marisa (not just a one size fits all method/solution). We’ll keep this concept in mind when recipe developing in the future, though!

  26. Jennifer says:

    For some reason this came out extremely salty and I like well seasoned food. I ended having to dump the whole pan. I used Al Fresco brand sausage, (it actually has less sodium than the recommended brand), regular chicken broth, and Rao’s tomato sauce. If I make this again i think I will just omit the added salt and season as needed once its done cooking.

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Hmm, that’s so odd, Jennifer! So sorry that you experienced that!

  27. Gretchen says:

    Is spinach instruction missing from recipe?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      Hi Gretchen! The spinach instructions are in step #4!

  28. Christine says:

    How much should I adjust the liquid ratio if I use 16oz gf pasta instead of 12oz? Should I also adjust the cook time?

    1. Brandi Schilhab says:

      We haven’t tried it with 16 ounces of pasta, Christine, so it’s hard to give exact instructions! I’d start by adding a 1/4 cup more broth. As far as cooking time goes, go ahead and try the time listed in the recipe, check it once the first 40 minutes is up, and if your noodles still need more time, try an additional 10-15 minutes. I hope that helps!