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This Pasta Al Forno recipe is a simple way to use fresh ingredients for a delicious Italian weeknight meal. It can be ready on your table in 45 minutes and that is if you are starting from fresh tomatoes. A simple and easy recipe that still brings garden flavors and a homemade feel to your dinner table. 

Pasta Al Forno serving on a white plate with a casserole dish off to the side.

Pasta Al Forno Basics

This has several classic Italian flavors wrapped up into one quick dish. The basics are simple. We cook up some noodles, a very basic tomato sauce, and then put it in the oven for just a tad to get some melty cheese on top. It really is that simple. What makes this a little bit different than many of these types of recipes is that I am having you start from fresh tomatoes.

Fresh garden cooking doesn’t need to be hard or complicated. In some cases, you can make some pretty quick and filling meals from scratch. While I give an option for canned tomatoes that cuts about 10 minutes off of the total cook time, you can start from the fresh stuff. So, get out to your garden and pick some tomatoes!

What is Pasta Al Forno?

The Italian term Pasta Al Forno literally translates to ‘baked pasta’ in English. Simple enough, right? That is the basic instruction of this recipe. We are adding pasta along with some sauce and cheese to a dish and baking it.

Timing this Recipe

This can be a very quick from-scratch dish if you time this right. You will have a few things going on at once, but it isn’t that tough to manage. There are essentially 3 parts to the process of this recipe.

Part 1 – Blanching the Tomates

We have now blanched many tomatoes in many recipes, like this Traditional Pasta Sauce recipe or this Pasta Puttanesca. It takes about 10 minutes to blanch and peel tomatoes.

Part 2 – Making the Individual Elements

This part of the recipe includes making the sauce, boiling the pasta, grating the cheese, and preheating the oven. This all can be done almost simultaneously and in about 25 minutes. The sauce, once tomatoes are added, should simmer for about 15 minutes. Maybe a little longer, but that is up to your discretion.

Part 3 – Baking the Pasta Al Forno

All of the work really is done in part 2. This is where we mix the ingredients, put cheese on top, and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Everything is already hot and there are no ingredients that need to hit certain temperatures, so there is a little bit of leeway in this step.

Fresh or Canned Tomatoes

I choose to use fresh tomatoes, but understand if you want to use canned tomatoes. Here are some options for you.

Fresh Tomatoes and Blanching

This recipe calls for 2 pounds of fresh, ripe, Roma tomatoes. You can really use any nice, ripe tomato, but I would stick to tomatoes that are not super large. Roma, San Marzano, and smaller garden varieties (not grape or cherry) work well. Large types of tomatoes, such as Big Boy or Beefsteak are not great for this or other sauces, although, I have been known to use them on occasion.

Using Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes can be great and they do take a step out of this recipe. If you choose a 28 Ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, that should be a good substitute for the fresh tomatoes I use in this recipe. The benefit of using canned tomatoes is that it saves you a little work and time. You don’t need to blanch, peel, or core any tomatoes.

What Cheese to Use?

I freshly shred a 4 Ounce block of mozzarella cheese. Then, I sprinkle one ounce of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the top. Honestly, I think most shredded cheese combinations would turn out pretty good. It is cheese and cheese is wonderful. Mozzarella is a traditional cheese to use and many families tend to have some around. It makes sense to use and it is flavorful.

Can I use Other Noodles?

Sure! Why not. I use penne noodles, but any similar pasta should work relatively well. Rigatoni, ziti, and rotini would all work well and similarly to the penne I use. Some of the longer pastas, such as linguini or spaghetti noodles, might not work quite as well, but I don’t know why you couldn’t use them.

Can I add meat?

Yes. Chicken, ground beef, or pork would all work well. Just make sure to cook them separately and add them to the dish in a manner that they will be cooked through to safe levels.

What Baking Dish to Use?

I used a 1.5 Quart Corningware casserole dish. I think they look nice and get the job done. An 8×8 casserole dish would work as well. I know we have several 2 Quart 8×8 dishes around and if it weren’t for the whole prospect of taking pictures, I would have likely used one of those, as well.

Pasta Al Forno Process

4 Step Process Shots for Pasta Al Forno recipe.
  1. Start by cooking garlic, onion, and herbs over medium-low until sweated out and soft.
  2. While garlic and onions are cooking, chop the tomatoes.
  3. Add tomatoes to pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.
  4. Add All Ingredients to a casserole dish, top with cheese, and get in the oven.

Pasta Al Forno Baking Tips Summary

  • If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use a 28-Ounce can of San Marzano Tomatoes.
  • I used a 1.5 Quart Corningware Casserole dish, but an 8×8 pan would work fine.
  • Don’t forget to oil casserole dish before putting pasta in.
  • Don’t like the herbs I used? Use whatever Italian herbs you want and think would taste good.
  • Simmer the sauce for up to 40 minutes to concentrate the flavor
Holding finished Pasta Al Forno dish in casserole pan.

Products I Used in This Recipe

  • 1.5 Quart Corningware Casserole dish
  • Large pan
  • Cheese Grater

Did You Make This Dish?

If you liked this recipe, you could do me a real solid by taking some time to let me know how it went in the comment section below and by sharing this recipe on Pinterest. I always appreciate hearing from you.  If you want to see more from me, make sure to subscribe to get updates via email.

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Pasta Al Forno serving on a white plate with a casserole dish off to the side.

Pasta Al Forno – Baked Pasta with Penne

  • Author: Ben Myhre
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x
  • Category: Classic, Vegetarian
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian
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This Pasta Al Forno recipe is a simple way to use fresh ingredients for a delicious Italian weeknight meal. It can be ready on your table in 45 minutes and that is if you are starting from fresh tomatoes. A simple and easy recipe that still brings garden flavors and a homemade feel to your dinner table. 


  • 2 Pounds Fresh Roma Tomatoes (or 28 ounce can San Marzano Tomatoes)
  • 12 Ounces penne Noodles
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil + 1 Tablespoon to coat casserole dish
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 Ounce mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 Ounce parmesan, grated


  1. Blanch, core, and peel tomatoes (if using fresh)
  2. Add 2 Tablespoons of oil to sauce pan and set to medium-low
  3. Once warm, add garlic, thyme, and onion to pan until soft
  4. While onion and garlic is cooking, chop tomatoes AND preheat oven on to 400° Fahrenheit degrees
  5. Once onions and garlic is soft, add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes to pan.
  6. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes (up to 45 minutes)
  7. While simmering, cook penne pasta per the package and shred cheeses.
  8. Once pasta is done and drained, mix pasta with tomato sauce
  9. Add to an oiled casserole pan (that extra tablespoon), top with cheeses, and add to top rack for 10 minutes


  • Serving Size: 1/4 dish
  • Calories: 532 Caloreis
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Sodium: 476 mg
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 8 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 75 g
  • Fiber: 8 g
  • Protein: 21 g
  • Cholesterol: 20 mg

Keywords: Pasta Al Forno

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