This Zucchini Pasta Bake Recipe with Cheese is made with zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, olive oil, oregano, and rigatoni pasta.
The dish is then baked in the oven until the flavors meld together, the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the zucchini and pasta are tender. It can be served as a main course, often with a side salad or garlic bread, or as a side dish to complement other Italian-inspired meals. Zucchini and pasta bake is a versatile dish that can be adapted to suit different dietary preferences and tastes, and it's a popular choice for family dinners or gatherings.
I needed to try this TikTok Feta pasta trend so I decided to add a twist to it with zucchini instead. I love eating vegetables so much not only because they are good for you, but they make me feel great. Zucchini is rich in many nutrients, high in antioxidants, contributes to healthy digestions and reduces blood sugar levels.
This is a great pasta dish because the zucchini is baked and creates a creamy sort of sauce without using any cream. The bursting cherry tomatoes gives it so much flavor as well. This pasta is full of veggies making it healthy…ish. I love the colors in this dish and it will definitely get you excited for the fall.
What is Zucchini Pasta Bake?
Zucchini Pasta Bake is a dish that combines zucchini, a type of summer squash, with pasta, typically in a baked casserole or gratin-style dish. It often includes other ingredients such as cheese, tomato sauce, and sometimes meat or vegetables, resulting in a hearty and flavorful dish.
To make zucchini and pasta bake, zucchini is usually sliced or diced and combined with cooked pasta in a baking dish. Tomato sauce or marinara sauce is often layered over the zucchini and pasta, followed by cheese, which can be shredded or melted, such as mozzarella or Parmesan. Additional ingredients like cooked ground meat such as beef or sausage, or vegetables like mushrooms or bell peppers, can also be added to enhance the flavor and nutritional value of the dish.
Zucchini Pasta Bake Recipe Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Feta cheese
- Olive oil
- Rigatoni pasta
See recipe card for Zucchini Pasta Bake with Cheese quantities.
How to make Zucchini Pasta Bake
Preheat the oven to 400 °F. In a large baking dish, place the block of feta cheese in the middle and add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes and garlic around it.
Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle salt, pepper and oregano. Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until the cherry tomatoes are bursting and the zucchini is golden.
When there is 10 minutes left of baking, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Take the vegetables out of the oven and give the vegetable mixture a nice stir.
Toss in the pasta into the baking dish and coat the pasta in the mixture. Garnish with parsley.
What to serve with Zucchini Pasta Bake
- Salad: A fresh salad can be a great side dish to balance the richness of the zucchini pasta bake. A simple mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette or a Caesar salad with crunchy romaine lettuce, croutons, and Parmesan cheese can be a great choice. You can also add additional vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, or olives to the salad for extra freshness. Check out my Watermelon Feta Basil Balsamic Salad.
- Garlic bread: Garlic bread is a classic side dish that pairs well with pasta dishes. You can make it by spreading butter and minced garlic on slices of baguette or Italian bread, then toasting them in the oven until golden and crispy. It's a delicious way to add some crunch and flavor to your meal.
- Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables are a healthy and flavorful option that can complement the zucchini pasta bake nicely. You can roast vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, or bell peppers with some olive oil, salt, and herbs until they are tender and caramelized. The natural sweetness of roasted vegetables can provide a nice contrast to the savory flavors of the pasta bake.
- Bruschetta: Bruschetta, which is toasted bread rubbed with garlic, topped with diced tomatoes, fresh basil, and sometimes mozzarella cheese, can be a flavorful and light option to serve alongside zucchini pasta bake. It's a great way to showcase the flavors of fresh tomatoes and herbs, and it adds a burst of freshness to the meal.
- Feta Cheese: I would get Greek feta which is briny, tangy and sharp. You must get the block as getting the already crumble cheese won’t melt well.
- Zucchini: I used 2 medium zucchinis but you can use one large one.
- Tomatoes: You can use cherry or grape tomatoes that are small and burst perfectly.
- Garlic: You can smash the garlic or mince it.
- Olive Oil: I would extra virgin olive oil for best quality and taste.
- Pasta: I used rigatoni but you can use any bite size pasta.
Zucchini Pasta Bake Recipe Variations
- Meat Lover's Zucchini Pasta Bake: If you're a meat lover, you can incorporate various types of meat into your zucchini pasta bake. For instance, you can add cooked ground beef, Italian sausage, or shredded cooked chicken to the dish for a heartier and protein-packed version. You can also use a combination of different meats for a flavorful twist.
- Cheesy Zucchini Pasta Bake: Cheese lovers can experiment with different types of cheese to create a rich and cheesy zucchini pasta bake. Mozzarella, Parmesan, cheddar, and fontina are some popular choices. You can use a combination of cheeses or use a single type of cheese, depending on your preference. You can also add extra cheese on top for a gooey and melty finish.
- Gluten-Free Zucchini Pasta Bake: If you're following a gluten-free diet, you can use gluten-free pasta, such as brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta, or lentil pasta, to make a gluten-free zucchini pasta bake. Just make sure to check the labels and choose certified gluten-free pasta. You can also use gluten-free breadcrumbs or a gluten-free flour blend for thickening the sauce or topping the dish.
- Low-Carb Zucchini Pasta Bake: For a low-carb version, you can use zucchini noodles (also known as zoodles) or thinly sliced zucchini in place of traditional pasta. You can make zoodles using a spiralizer or a julienne peeler. This will reduce the carb content of the dish while adding more veggies. You can also use a low-carb marinara sauce or tomato alternative, such as diced tomatoes or tomato puree with no added sugar, to further reduce the carb content.
Check out this Pink Sauce Pasta.
- Baking dish: You will need a baking dish to assemble and bake the zucchini pasta bake. A rectangular or square baking dish with a capacity of 9x13 inches or similar size is usually suitable for most recipes. Make sure it's oven-safe and large enough to hold all the ingredients.
- Knife and cutting board: You will need a sharp knife and a cutting board to chop and slice the zucchini, and any other vegetables or ingredients used in the recipe.
- Spiralizer or julienne peeler (optional): If you're making a low-carb version of zucchini pasta bake and using zucchini noodles (zoodles), you will need a spiralizer or a julienne peeler to create the zucchini noodles.
- Mixing bowls: You will need mixing bowls to combine the ingredients, such as the cooked pasta, zucchini, sauce, and cheese.
- Cooking utensils: You will need a spatula or a spoon to mix the ingredients and a fork to test the doneness of the zucchini or pasta.
- Saucepan or skillet: You may need a saucepan or skillet to cook the sauce or any other ingredients that require sautéing or simmering before assembling the zucchini pasta bake.
- Oven: Zucchini pasta bake is typically baked in the oven, so you will need a preheated oven to bake the dish to perfection.
- Oven mitts: Oven mitts or pot holders will be necessary to handle the hot baking dish when taking it in and out of the oven.
- Optional: Grater or shredder for grating cheese, a spoon or ladle for transferring sauce or pasta, and a baking sheet to catch any potential drips or spills in the oven.
How to store Zucchini Pasta Bake
- Let it cool: Allow the zucchini pasta bake to cool to room temperature before storing. This helps prevent condensation and moisture buildup, which can make the dish soggy.
- Cover tightly: Transfer the leftover zucchini pasta bake to an airtight container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Make sure the container or wrap is tightly sealed to prevent air from getting in, which can cause the dish to dry out or absorb odors from the refrigerator.
- Refrigerate: Place the covered zucchini pasta bake in the refrigerator and store for up to 3-4 days. Keep it in the main body of the refrigerator and avoid storing it in the door, as the temperature may fluctuate in the door, which can affect the quality and safety of the dish.
- Freeze (if desired): If you want to store zucchini pasta bake for a longer period, you can freeze it. However, keep in mind that the texture of zucchini may change after freezing and thawing, and it may become softer. To freeze, wrap the cooled zucchini pasta bake tightly in plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or place it in an airtight container suitable for freezing. Label with the date and store in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
- Reheat properly: To reheat zucchini pasta bake, if it's refrigerated, you can simply transfer it to a microwave-safe dish, cover loosely with a lid or microwave-safe wrap, and heat in the microwave in short intervals, stirring occasionally until heated through. If it's frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Alternatively, you can reheat it in the oven by covering it with foil and baking at a low temperature (around 300°F/150°C) until heated through.
Zucchini Pasta Bake Recipe Top tips
- Use firm zucchini: Choose zucchini that is firm and not overly ripe for the best results. Overly ripe zucchini can release more moisture during baking, which can make the dish watery.
- Salt the zucchini: To remove excess moisture from the zucchini and prevent the dish from becoming too watery, you can salt the zucchini slices and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Then, pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels before using them in the recipe.
- Cook pasta al dente: Cook the pasta al dente, which means slightly undercooked, as it will continue to cook in the oven during baking. This helps prevent the pasta from becoming too soft and mushy in the final dish.
- Add herbs and spices: Don't be shy with herbs and spices! Add plenty of fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary, to add depth and aroma to the dish. You can also add spices like garlic powder, onion powder, or red pepper flakes for extra flavor.
- Use high-quality cheeses: Use high-quality feta for a more flavorful and melty topping.
- Don't skimp on the cheese: Cheese is a star ingredient in a pasta bake, so be generous with it.
- Let it rest before serving: Allow the zucchini and pasta bake to rest for a few minutes after baking before serving. This helps the dish set and makes it easier to cut into clean slices.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove