Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake

Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake

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Easy “cheesy” vegan pasta bake loaded with zucchini, summer squash, and made with chickpea pasta for added protein. A simple whole food plant-based weeknight meal without oil, and gluten-free.

When I first got married many years ago, one of the staple dishes I made for my husband was a cheesy vegetable pasta bake from Giada De Laurentiis. I was vegetarian at the time and this dish satisfied my meat eating husband and I felt good about hiding some vegetables in there.

Giada’s recipe was loaded with several different cheeses. penne pasta, olive oil, butter and roasted vegetables. It was delicious and served a crowd, making it an approachable vegetarian dish for my non-vegetarian family and friends at dinner parties.

The other day my husband was reminiscing about the days I made Giada’s baked penne pasta, so I decided to resurrect the recipe but make some significant changes.

vegan pasta bake

What’s different about this Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake compared to the traditional recipe?

  • I used chickpea pasta in place of regular penne pasta making this pasta bake gluten-free, decreasing the calories, increasing the protein per serving, increasing the fiber, and reducing the carbohydrates.
  • I eliminated all oil and butter making this recipe whole food plant-based, and significantly reducing the total calories per serving.
  • I cut out the cheese, and created my own “cheese” sauce for the topping using coconut milk and nutritional yeast.

Ingredients you’ll need:

vegan pasta bake spoonful

If you’re goal is to be completely whole food plant-based then that means you are also avoiding oil. The pasta sauce listed above is oil-free. If you’re not worried about a little oil, use your favorite vegan pasta sauce in this recipe, or make your own.

I used zucchini and summer squash in this recipe because it is in season this time of the year. It’s also what I had in my refrigerator that needed to be cooked. Feel free to sub in your own favorite vegetables or whatever produce you need to use before it turns.

Tools and Cooking Equipment you’ll need to make Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake:

I’ve been slowly transitioning from non-stick cookware to stainless cookware. Non-stick cookware is convenient for easy clean-up, but contains the teflon. If that teflon flakes off the pan it can be ingested. It has been said that ingesting some teflon isn’t harmful, but I don’t want to risk it if I don’t have to. That’s why I’m slowly phasing out our non-stick cookware.

HOW TO MAKE EASY “CHEESY” VEGAN PASTA BAKE – STEP BY STEP

zucchini and summer squash chopped
  • In this recipe you roast the vegetables in the oven without oil. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Chop zucchini and summer squash into bite size pieces. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place chopped zucchini and summer squash on sheet pan. Sprinkle Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper evenly over the vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • While vegetables are in the oven boil water for pasta adding a teaspoon of salt to the water. Once water is boiled pour in pasta, and cook for approximately 8 minutes. Follow package instructions for specific cooking time. TIP: Don’t overcook the pasta. You’ll want it al dente.
  • While pasta is boiling prepare cheese sauce. Heat coconut milk over medium heat. Whisk in flour and then nutritional yeast. Add salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Whisk until combined and all lumps are gone.
  • Drain pasta. In an oven safe baking dish, combine pasta, marinara sauce, and roasted vegetables. Evenly spread cheese sauce over top.
  • Bake in oven at 350 F for 15 minutes or until top is browned. Serve immediately.

WHY IS THIS EASY “CHEESY” VEGAN PASTA BAKE HEALTHIER THAN THE TRADITIONAL?

This recipe uses chickpea pasta. Chickpea pasta is gluten-free making this pasta bake perfect for many diets and sensitivities. In addition, chickpea pasta has fewer calories per serving, fewer carbs, more than double the fiber, and double the protein compared to traditional pasta.

Eliminating all oil and butter in this recipe greatly reduces the overall calories.

Eliminating the cheese reduces calories, and subbing with the vegan “cheese” sauce provides healthy fats in the form of coconut milk.

The traditional baked penne pasta has approximately 582 calories per serving, 23 g of fat, 8 g of saturated fat, 7 g of fiber, and 23 g of protein.

My vegan pasta bake has 333 calories, 13 g of fat, 7 g of sat fat, 11 g of fiber, and 15.5 g of protein. You’re saving over 200 calories and 10 g of fat per serving!

vegan pasta bake

What did the kids and husband think?

My kids didn’t notice the pasta was different. They usually prefer their pasta plain with butter and cheese, so this was a bit different. My oldest wasn’t sure about it. He didn’t like it on the first bite, but that was because he made up his mind not to like it. You know how kids can be, they have a preconceived expectation not to like things that are different, so even when they take one taste they make a face. I gently encouraged him to try a few more bites, and he changed his mind cleaning his plate! My youngest didn’t have a problem eating it at all.

My husband is still getting used to vegan cheese. He prefers the real thing, and isn’t fooled by the substitute, but he didn’t miss any of the Italian flavors from the original.

Vegetable Variations

I used zucchini and summer squash in this recipe, although nearly any vegetables you have on hand would work in this dish. Use whatever is in season, what your family likes best, or what needs to be eaten before it turns. This is the kind of dish you can clean-out your refrigerator with.

Don’t use starchy vegetables. Try red or green peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, onion, asparagus, or eggplant.

Tips for Making Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake

  • Line your sheet pan prior to roasting the vegetables. Without using oil the vegetables can stick to the pan.
  • Use an organic oil free pasta sauce.
  • Choose non-starchy vegetables.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta. Keep it al dente, as you’ll also bake this in the oven.
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake

Easy "cheesy" vegan pasta bake loaded with zucchini, summer squash, and made with chickpea pasta for added protein. A simple whole food plant-based weeknight meal without oil, and gluten-free.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: vegan pasta bake
Servings: 6
Calories: 291kcal
Author: Alison Corey

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 8 oz chickpea pasta
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp gluten-free flour
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 24 oz jar of marinara sauce oil free

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 F. Chop zucchini and summer squash into bite size pieces. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place chopped zucchini and summer squash on sheet pan. Sprinkle seasoning evenly over the vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes.
  • While vegetables are in the oven boil water for pasta, following package instructions. Once water is boiled pour in pasta, and cook for approximately 8 minutes.
  • While pasta is boiling prepare cheese sauce. Heat coconut milk over medium heat. Whisk in flour  and then nutritional yeast. Add salt, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. Whisk until combined and all lumps are gone.
  • Drain pasta. In an oven safe baking dish, combine, pasta, pasta sauce, and roasted vegetables. Evenly spread cheese sauce over top.
  • Bake in oven at 350 F for 15 minutes or until top is browned. Serve immediately.

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER KID FRIENDLY DINNERS!

If you’ve tried my Easy “Cheesy” Vegan Pasta Bake recipe, please rate it and let me know how it turned out. You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Pinterest for more plant-based family recipes your whole family will enjoy!

This Post Has 6 Comments


  1. This sounds amazing!! I love anything like this, and the hubby usually does too


  2. Oh this sounds amazing! I love the chick pea pasta for added protein. I’ve never tried that and now for sure this will be on my menu!


  3. This cheesy vegan pasta bake recipe seems easy to make. I am gonna keep the recipe and teach my son to cook this meal. He has recently started looking for healthy recipes! Thanks for sharing.

  4. absolutely love pasta on a weeknight! Your recipe looks great


  5. I love this recipe and how you creatively cut calories and fat, yet kept all the big flavour. Definitely a winner for our family!


  6. I can’t wait to try this recipe! I love the idea of a healthy pasta meal

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