This Vegetarian Baked Spaghetti is made extra cheesy with both mozzarella and ricotta cheese. There’s no boiling of the noodles required, making it a super easy, one-pan dinner recipe the whole family will love!
I am willing to bet that you love a solution to busy weeknight dinners just as much as I do. Not just any recipe will do though. A weeknight vegetarian dinner recipe around here needs to be flavorful and easy to make. You can’t have one without the other, and this baked spaghetti is no exception.
This recipe is perfect for when you need the ultimate comfort food in the form of carbs and cheese, but you don’t want to spend much time or effort on it. And really, when you don’t have time for all those dishes!
The Simple Ingredient List
You’re going to love this easy shopping list! In fact, you might even have all the ingredients in your pantry already… and the cheese in your fridge. That’s a winning recipe for dinner that comes together quickly!
- Crushed Tomatoes: The base of the tomato sauce. If you can get crushed San Marzano tomatoes, do it! They are so flavorful, with just the right balance of sweetness and acid with a bright tomato flavor. Often you’ll see cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes (like I use in my homemade tomato sauce recipe), which would work if you want to break them apart or pulse them in the blender.
- Diced Tomatoes: Added for more tomato texture, in goes the whole can. Be sure to note if your tomatoes contain salt or not. I buy the no salt variety so that I can add my own salt.
- Shallot: All of the ingredients bake together, which means shallot is the perfect aromatic for it’s mild onion flavor. Be sure to chop it finely so it does cook in the sauce.
- Garlic: Mince the garlic so it incorporates throughout the sauce.
- Dried Herbs & Spices: For ease and to keep this recipe budget-friendly, we’re using a variety of dried herbs…oregano, basil, and parsley, along with onion powder for an extra pop and I love throwing in some red pepper flakes. You can’t taste them – this isn’t a spicy spaghetti – but they add a depth of flavor. If you’re hestitant, feel free to leave them out.
- Spinach: For a little hidden-vegetable action going on, the spinach wilts in the sauce.
- Vegetable Stock: Helps give our spaghetti liquid to cook. Can you substitute water instead? Yes, but the stock (or broth) adds a lot of flavor so I highly recommend using it!
- Spaghetti: can’t have baked spaghetti without spaghetti!
- Ricotta and Mozzarella Cheese: ricotta adds a super creamy texture to the spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella creates a beautiful cheesy topping. Cheese perfection!
This recipe is vegetarian and eggless. I haven’t tried using dairy-free cheeses or gluten-free noodles in it yet, but let us know if you give it a try!
How To Make Baked Spaghetti without Boiling Noodles
I was determined to make a meatless baked spaghetti recipe that didn’t require boiling the noodles before assembly. To me, spaghetti is one of those recipes that should be quick and easy – one that is made for busy weeknights when you need a comforting pasta dinner without much effort.
The only other way to make spaghetti, of course, is if you’re willing to devote a lot of time to a big family dinner with homemade marinara sauce and vegetarian meatballs, but that’s a different story.
After many recipe tests, here we are: a baked spaghetti casserole that is thrown together in one 9×13 pan, requiring no other sauteing, boiling, or work. That does mean that there are a few tips and tricks to making this recipe successfully, so be sure to read on!
Mix the Sauce
The first step is mixing together the “sauce” ingredients”. Since this truly is a one-pot recipe, go ahead and combine them right in your baking dish. I recommend a 9×13 casserole pan. I’ve only made it in my glass baking dish, but ceramic should work well, too.
Whisk together the tomatoes, dried herbs, vegetable stock, shallot, garlic, and salt until combined. Tip #1: make sure the shallot is finely diced. Because we aren’t sauteeing it, making sure it’s finely chopped ensures that it will get cooked in the sauce, if it’s too coarse, there will still be a bite to the pieces.
A note about the salt: keep in mind, we aren’t boiling the pasta, and if we were, we would be doing so in salted water. The pasta absorbs a lot of the salt we’re adding. Take note of your vegetable stock/broth and tomatoes to see if there is added salt and adjust as needed.
I like to stir in the spinach after the sauce is combined, or you can do so with the spaghetti.
Add the Spaghetti
Now that the sauce is combined it’s time to add the spaghetti. It helps to add the noodles after mixing the sauce so you can easily mix the sauce in the pan and make sure that the sauce gets around all of the noodles.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Use a fork or tongs, or even your clean hands, to “swoosh” the spaghetti noodles around ensuring they are coated in the sauce. It is going to be very important throughout this process to make sure they don’t stick together. This first step is key, as it gives us a good base of already separated noodles.
Now, it’s time to bake without the cheese. We’re giving the pasta a head start on cooking before adding the cheese mostly so that we can easily “stir” the pasta during its bake time, again, making sure the noodles don’t stick together.
I recommend “stirring” the pasta with a fork, because it can easily get between the noodles, making sure they are separated and continue to cook evenly. Hold the fork up and down and “swish” the noodles back and forth to break them apart and gently stir them in the sauce. I don’t recommend heavily stirring them around because the sauce will be hot.
Add the Cheese
Now that the pasta has had some time to cook, it’s time to add the cheese! Dollop the ricotta cheese across the top of the spaghetti. This gives a delicious cheesy layer, kind of like lasagna. Then sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese.
Continue cooking until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. Ricotta cheese does have a higher moisture content, and depending on which you use, there may be some extra liquid released during the cooking process from the cheese. This is totally ok!
If you want to make sure your cheese is golden brown, turn on the broiler for a few minutes before taking it out of the oven.
Let the spaghetti cool a few minutes before serving. I love a good basil or parsley garnish, and usually an extra sprinkle of parmesan cheese for good measure.
- Add extra vegetables: kale would be an excellent substitution for spinach, otherwise, depending on whcih vegetables you want to add, you’ll likely need to saute them before adding them to the sauce. Mushrooms, zucchini (if shredded, add it right in!), or carrots and celery would be yummy additions.
- Leave out the spinach: and quite the opposite of the first variation! I have made this without the spinach, too.
- Use cottage cheese instead of ricotta: have you ever had cottage cheese in lasanga? This idea is similar here.
Make it Ahead of Time
If you’d like to prepare this recipe ahead of time, you can combine the sauce ingredients and noodles in the baking dish. Cover, and store in the fridge.
When you’re ready to bake, remove it from the fridge while the oven preheats so it can come to room temperature. Don’t transfer the cold pan directly into a hot oven.
Continue following the baking directions, adding the cheese halfway through.
Storage and Reheating
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat either in the oven or in a microwave-safe dish until hot.
What to Serve with Baked Spaghetti
Like any classic pasta dish, there are many delicious sides to pair with it, and a green vegetable is always a good option! Here are a few of my quick and easy side dish favorites, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you enjoyed it!
- Roasted Broccolini
- Caesar Salad (or another light side salad)
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Green Beans and Mushrooms
- Steamed Carrots
- Red Wine (ok, ok, maybe it’s not a side dish but you know I love a good red wine with spaghetti!)
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Cheesy Vegetarian Baked Spaghetti
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, San Marzano if possible
- 15 ounces diced tomatoes, in their juice
- 2 ¾ cups vegetable stock
- ½ cup shallot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups packed spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 pound dried spaghetti noodles
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional, cubed
- 15 ounces ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 375°F. In a 9×13 pan, combine crushed and diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, parsley, onion powder, and salt. Stir to fully mix together. Add spinach if using.
- Place spaghetti noodles in the pan, "wiggling" them around with a fork or your clean hands until they are surrounded by the sauce. Move them around to prevent any sticking together during the baking process. It's really important to make sure the noodles are incorporated in the sauce so they cook evenly. Top with butter, if using.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, stirring several times throughout, to ensure the noodles are not sticking together and that they cook all around. It works best to use a fork, holding it up and down, to separate the noodles and "swish" them around to ensure they're not sticking together.
- After the first bake, place dollops of the ricotta cheese on top of the spaghetti. I like to add a sprinkle of salt on the ricotta – it helps bring out its flavor. Then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese across the top. Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly. I recommend using the fork method to gently "stir" the noodles a couple of times throughout this bake, too. If desired, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to further brown the cheese.
- Let the spaghetti cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. I like to use a large spatula to cut squares, similar to lasagna, to serve. Top with parsley or basil as a garnish, and additional parmesan cheese as desired. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- If your ricotta has extra liquid on top, drain it before adding to the spaghetti.
- Spaghetti: I’ve tested this recipe with basic spaghetti noodles, both Barilla, and regular store brand noodles. If your noodles have a traditional cook time (stated on the box) longer than 10 minutes, you may need to bake the spaghetti longer to achieve al dente noodles.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.