The ultimate comfort dish! This vegan baked pasta features layers of tender penne, a cashew ricotta cheese and a hearty, walnut Bolognese sauce. Prepare to be impressed!
There’s just something incredibly comforting about a great pasta dish and this vegan baked pasta will definitely impress. Layered with tons of flavour, texture and absolute deliciousness.
Just like my vegan lasagna and my lasagna stuffed portobellos, this recipe is inspired by my Italian background and will have you salivating. PS. For my fellow Italians, consider this a vegan version of your favourite Pasta Al Forno. 🙂
Why you’ll love this!
- It’s a great make-ahead meal. You can fully prepare and assemble this one 1-2 days ahead and bake when ready to eat.
- Freezer friendly! A perfect dish you can double up and freeze one for next time. Great on those days when you just don’t have the time to spend in the kitchen.
- Healthier than most baked pasta dishes. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider pasta a health food. However, this one has the nutritional benefit that nuts like cashews and walnuts have to offer. Plus, the healthy kind of fat, unlike your classic cheese ridden variety.
- Incredible flavour and texture! You get the comfort and tenderness of pasta, together with rich, cheesy cashew ricotta and a lovely crunch from your hearty, walnut bolognese sauce. We’re talking absolute perfection, here!
How to make it
(This is a summary with step-by-step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Gather your ingredients.
Put a large pot of generously salted water to boil for cooking your pasta. While waiting for that to boil, prepare your cashew ricotta cheese.
Add the cashews, nutritional yeast, ricotta cheese seasonings and the water to your food processor. (photos 1-2)
Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Then set aside. (photo 3)
If your water is boiling, add the pasta, and then prepare your sauce. Combine the tomato sauce, crushed walnuts and the seasoning and mix well. Set aside. (photos 4-6)
By now your pasta should be cooked. Remember to undercook it by 2-3 minutes since it will cook more in the oven! Drain immediately and start assembling your vegan baked pasta dish.
Add a thin layer of bolognese sauce to the bottom of a 9″x13″ casserole dish. This is to prevent sticking. (photo 7)
Then add half of your drained pasta on top, followed by another thin layer of sauce. (photos 8-9)
Now, using half of your prepared cashew ricotta, drop spoonful’s over top your sauce layer. (photo 10)
Do you best to spread the cheese layer, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. (photo 11)
Then add the remaining half of your pasta and more sauce on top. (photo 12)
Followed by the remaining half of your ricotta cheese, spread again and finally, more sauce. (photos 13-14)
Optional: Sprinkle with vegan Parmesan cheese on top, if using. (photo 15)
Then bake for 20 minutes, uncovered, and remove from the oven. (photo 16)
Sprinkle your vegan baked pasta with fresh parsley and serve.
How long does it keep?
Leftovers keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. You may reheat in the oven, or deconstructed on stove top.
Or you may freeze this dish, before or after baking for up to 3 months. Note that frozen pasta will get softer in texture upon thawing and reheating.
What kind of pasta should I use?
You may use virtually any kind for your vegan baked pasta. I like pennoni pasta so more sauce and cheese can get inside.
But any short variety will do. Try penne, rotini, ziti or rigatoni, if that’s what you have on hand.
You may also use gluten free pasta if needed. Just remember to undercook by 2-3 minutes, no matter what you choose.
Can I make it nut free?
To make the vegan ricotta cheese, you may sub the cashews for sunflower seeds with similar results. Keep in mind, this will be a little less rich, but still very flavourful.
For the walnuts, you may omit, OR sub those for pepitas, again, with similar results.
- Do not over cook your pasta. Remember that it will continue cooking in the oven, so it’s best to UNDERCOOK by 2-3 minutes.
- If you don’t have a strong food processor, soak your cashews before processing. The fastest way to do this is boil some water in a pot or kettle. Then soak the cashews in the hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and use as directed. This will soften them up, making them easier to process.
More vegan pasta dishes
- Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Sauce
- Vegan Hamburger Helper w/ Soy Curls
- Pasta Aglio e Olio (Pasta w/ Garlic & Oil)
- Easy Mushroom Zucchini Pasta
- Vegan Pasta e Fagioli
- Pasta Carbonara w/ Soy Curl Pancetta
If you tried this recipe, please let me know about it in the comments below. I always love hearing from you! Don’t forget to Subscribe to This Healthy Kitchen to be among the first to get my new recipes! You can also FOLLOW ME on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to see more delicious food and get all the latest updates.
- 1 pound pennoni or penne pasta gluten free if preferred
For the Vegan Ricotta
For the Bolognese Sauce
- 5 cups tomato sauce use your favourite kind
- 1 cup chopped walnuts small enough to resemble minced meat
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ⅓ cup vegan parmesan cheese
- Preheat your oven to 425℉/218℃ and grab a casserole dish that is 9"x 13" or similar to set aside. Then, fill a large pot with generously salted water and bring it to a boil.
- While waiting for your water to boil, make your dairy-free ricotta. Add all the ricotta ingredients to your food processor and process until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides as needed and set it aside.
- By now, your water should be boiling, so add your pasta to the pot and UNDERCOOK it by 2-3 minutes compared to the package directions. Then drain immediately.
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare your sauce by stirring the Bolognese ingredients in a bowl. Set it aside.
- When the pasta is cooked, begin assembling your vegan baked pasta dish.
- Add a thin layer of sauce to the bottom of your dish to prevent sticking. Then add half of your cooked pasta on top, another thin layer of sauce, and half of the ricotta cheese. Spread the cheese as best as you can, but it doesn't need to be perfect.
- Now add the remaining half of the pasta, another layer of sauce, and the remaining ricotta cheese. Spread the cheese, add one more layer of sauce, and then sprinkle with the vegan Parmesan cheese, if using.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, and then remove the tray from the oven. Garnish with fresh herbs, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, black pepper, or more vegan parmesan cheese.
- Do not overcook your pasta. Remember that it will continue cooking in the oven, so it’s best to UNDERCOOK it by 2-3 minutes.
- If you don’t have a strong food processor or blender, soak your cashews in hot water before blending. Boil some water in a pot or kettle and soak the cashews for 15-20 minutes. This will soften them, making them easier to process. Drain and make the cheese as directed.
- For nut-free: use sunflower seeds instead of cashews for the ricotta with similar results. Omit the walnuts, or use pepitas with similar results. Or make my tofu ricotta instead.
- Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of ingredients and steps. Most are pantry ingredients and spices and many of the steps are done simultaneously, so it won’t take long. See the process shots above, in the post, if needed, to assist with assembling.