Smith Family Pasta Bake

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Yield: 12 to 20 servings

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This down-home casserole is perfect for potlucks or big family gatherings; it fills quite a large pot with a warm, bubbling casserole of pasta, onions, a tomato-y white sauce, and cheese. Even better: the pasta cooks as the casserole bakes, so there's no need to boil up a pound of pasta before you start.

Smith Family Pasta Bake

star rating (7) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 12 to 20 servings
Published: 10/08/2010


  • 4 cups chopped onion, about 3 medium-large onions
  • 3 (or more) garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
  • 3 cups pasta sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil*
  • 1 pound pasta, uncooked; about 6 cups uncooked pasta: shells, ziti, rotelli, elbows, etc.
  • 3 cups, packed, shredded cheese; a mixture of Parmesan and mozzarella is tasty
  • pizza seasoning, optional
  • *You can omit the basil if you're using bottled pasta sauce.

Tips from our bakers

  • Since the dry pasta cooks in the casserole as it bakes, choose a pasta that doesn't have an ultra-long cooking time, to avoid too-hard noodles; 7 to 10 minutes is ideal.
  • To make this in a Zojirushi CEC20 or X20 bread machine, simply remove the paddles from the bucket; layer the ingredients in the bucket; and use the homemade menu to program for "bake only," 70 minutes. The keep-warm option is — well, optional, if you want to keep the casserole warm for awhile.


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1) Sauté the chopped onions and garlic in the oil until they're soft and golden.

2) Add the flour to the onions, stirring to combine.

3) Gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth and thickened.

4) Add the mustard, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

5) Add the pasta sauce, sugar (if desired), and basil. Stir to combine, and remove from the heat.

6) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a large (about 4-quart), deep casserole dish.

7) Pour about 1 1/2 cups (about one quarter) of the pasta sauce into the bottom of the prepared dish. Add 2 cups (one third) of the uncooked pasta, then about 1 cup (one third) of the cheese. Repeat the layers; then add a final layer of sauce, pasta, sauce, and cheese. Sprinkle with Pizza Seasoning, if desired.

8) Bake the casserole for 35 to 45 minutes, until it's bubbling and beginning to brown on top. Remove it from the oven, and let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: 12 to 20 servings, depending on size.


  • star rating 10/27/2011
  • scbrosnan from KAF Community
  • On the upside the flavor of this dish was great and liked that I didn't have to preboil the pasta. On the downside the pasta didn't seem to hold together well. I used a spiral pasta that was an 11min cook, but only cooked the dish for the recommended time. What we all seemed to agree on is that the dish seemed a bit gummy and possibly the starch in the pasta contributed to this. Would I make again, not sure.
    Sorry to hear that this pasta bake didn't quite work out for you. If you'd like to try it again, give us a call on the Baker's Hotline and we'll try to help troubleshoot for you. ~Mel @ KAF
  • star rating 09/13/2011
  • C from
  • Very delicious! Will definitely be making again and again. Quick question though, would you be able to cook this in a crock pot/slow cooker?
  • star rating 08/27/2011
  • erendis from KAF Community
  • very nice flavor, though I imagine it hinges greatly on what sauce you use (we used Trader Joe's puttanesca sauce). Also added a green pepper in order to use it up. It was nice to make it in the zo and not have to heat up the kitchen on this very humid pre-hurricane day. The best part? it was 100% toddler approved!
  • star rating 07/11/2011
  • bobmar37 from KAF Community
  • I have celiac disease so I made this gluten free by using GF shells and 3 parts white rice flour and 1 part potato starch for the flour. I made half the recipe for 4 adults and 2 kids and we finished it all. It was easy to make but the GF pasta should be pre-boiled. We all liked this very much and will have it again. It's perfect for a family with 1 celiac, 2 vegetarians, and 3 normal folks!
  • star rating 04/25/2011
  • Marilyn from New York City, NY
  • This was indeed a yummy recipe! I would, however, either use less pasta or more liquids as I found the pasta absorbed most of the liquid and became very solid. Added extra sauce to that and it still was a big hit!! This recipe is a real keeper! I've tried many other pasta recipes but they aren't as flavorful as this one was!
  • star rating 11/12/2010
  • winkle from KAF Community
  • I made this last night to great reviews from ages 14 months - 40 years. I used the pasta sauce version since I'm not particularly fond of tomatoes, and wasn't sure how they'd pass muster with the little guys at the table. I don't know if it was because I used pasta sauce, but I felt the added sugar made it too sweet. I'll eliminate that next time, because there will be a next time - YUM! Also, because I didn't think it was clear from the recipe, use a 9x13" dish for the baking - plenty of room. What I would like to know, however, is can this be made a day ahead? I wasn't sure if the dry pasta would soak up any of the sauce in advance and make it mushy after baking?
    Your intuition is correct. The uncooked pasta will take up liquid overnight. The pasta won't be mushy, but the casserole will not be as moist or creamy. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.
  • star rating 10/09/2010
  • kristac from KAF Community
  • I halved this recipe as it was just for me and my Husband. I used Penne noodles with canned diced tomatoes, and added come cooked chicken pieces, but did not use the nutmeg (concerned about how that would alter the pasta taste) or Dijon mustard (didn't have). I did sprinkle the pizza seasoning in moderation on top. We both liked it. I will make it again knowing now that I can make this white sauce rather than relying always on store-bought spaghetti/Alfredo jar sauces. Really yummy!

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