Healthy Pasta Bake

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This Healthy Pasta Bake is made without a heavy, cream-based sauce. The “secret” ingredient to the creamy, but nutritious, sauce? A can of corn! Blend it together with the sauce, pour it over uncooked pasta, and then let the oven do all the work!

Not sure about baking pasta? Try out our Corn Pasta for a similar recipe made on the stovetop!

Overhead image of Healthy Pasta Bake

Do You Cook The Pasta Before Making This Pasta Bake?

Not for this recipe! Remember this genius Tuna casserole or perhaps this Tuscan Chicken Pasta? We’re borrowing the concept of throwing everything into a casserole dish (uncooked pasta and all) and letting the oven do the work for us. 

But instead of whole milk, we’re using a plant-based milk alternative and a can of corn to create the ultra-creamy sauce, but in a more nutritious and lighter way. We’re also loading up this easy pasta bake with veggies and adding in some chicken sausage to amp up the protein. 

Kid-friendly: Check! While I can’t speak for all kids, I can tell you, all three of mine gobbled this Healthy Pasta Bake and loved it! (I leave out the red pepper flakes when making it for them and instead sprinkle a few on my own plate!)

Process shots-- add all the ingredients to the blender; process and add to the dish

Let’s Chat Sausage

Any smoked sausage works in this Healthy Pasta Bake. We like smoked chicken sausage best (Aidell’s® Italian Style is our fave; not sponsored). It keeps things nice and healthy, plus tastes great — the flavors pair well with all the other ingredients in this recipe. Turkey sausage is another favorite here!

Note that we only use 9 ounces of sausage. Most smoked sausage comes in packages of 12-14 ounces, so save a link for another recipe (see “quick tip” box below). If you can’t find another use for it, you can add it to this dish — it works fine, but it will be very meaty! (Which is great if you’re optimizing for protein intake.)

Healthy Pasta Bake Variations

  • Southwestern-inspired: I went to make this again the other night, only to find we were out of plain canned corn. I used a can of southwestern corn instead and added 1 teaspoon paprika to the blender, and we were all obsessed with the results!
  • Healthy Turkey Pasta Bake: Use smoked turkey sausage instead of chicken sausage. Or toss in some leftover shredded turkey along with the Parmesan cheese to warm it through. For a creamy ground turkey pasta, brown 1/2 pound ground turkey separately and mix through at the end with the Parmesan cheese.
  • Chicken Pasta Bake Recipe: Instead of chicken sausage, use drained canned chicken, leftover chopped grilled chicken, or leftover chopped rotisserie chicken. If using fully cooked chicken, toss it through at the end (with the Parmesan cheese) to warm the chicken through. (Don’t bake it for 20 minutes — it will dry out the chicken.)
  • Healthy Tuna Pasta Bake: Leave out the sausage and replace it with 2 cans of well-drained tuna instead. (Place drained tuna on top — don’t mix it through.) .
  • Vegetarian Healthy Pasta Bake: To make this vegetarian, use a plant-based sausage or leave out the sausage entirely. To make vegan, use a plant-based sausage, plant-based butter, and leave out the Parmesan. (You can add some nutritional yeast or additional seasonings to make up for missing flavor.) A scoop of vegan pesto can also add loads of flavor without needing extra seasonings.

Process shots-- add the corn, broccoli, and sausage and bake; add Parmesan and bake again

How To Make A Healthy Pasta Bake

  1. Blend: Add all the sauce ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Bake: Add uncooked pasta to the pan. Pour blender sauce on top and toss with pasta. Bake.
  3. Bake Again: Add in frozen corn, broccoli, and chicken sausage. Stir through. Return pan to oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15 minutes or until pasta is tender and sauce is thickened. Add Parmesan, basil, and dig in!

Healthy Pasta Bake Ingredients

  • Corn: Use a can of sweet yellow corn and don’t drain it — we use the whole can for the base of the cream sauce
  • Pasta: We’ve tested both penne and rotini pasta in this Healthy Pasta Bake recipe — either works. Whatever pasta you use, Make sure it has a similar boil time to penne/rotini (9-11 minutes) so it will bake through similarly.
  • Almond milk: Any plant-based milk works, but opt for unsweetened and plain (not vanilla-flavored). We like unsweetened plain almond milk — only 30 calories for a cup!
  • Butter: If you’re really watching calories, leave out the butter, but you will miss out on some flavor/richness.
  • Frozen corn and frozen broccoli: It’s important to use frozen veggies; we’re relying on the liquid.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Grab a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively, use finely grated Parmesan cheese. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won’t melt into the sauce nicely.

Up-close overhead image of Healthy Pasta Bake, ready to serve

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Healthy Pasta Bake

5 from 2 votes
This Healthy Pasta Bake is made without a heavy, cream-based sauce. The "secret" ingredient to the creamy, but nutritious, sauce? A can of corn! Blend the sauce, pour it over uncooked pasta, and then let the oven do all the work!
Print Recipe

Healthy Pasta Bake

5 from 2 votes
This Healthy Pasta Bake is made without a heavy, cream-based sauce. The "secret" ingredient to the creamy, but nutritious, sauce? A can of corn! Blend the sauce, pour it over uncooked pasta, and then let the oven do all the work!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Healthy
Keyword Healthy Pasta Bake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 611kcal
Cost $8.86

Ingredients

Blend Together:

  • 1 can (15 oz.; 432g) sweet yellow corn undrained Note 1
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups milk (we use plant based) Note 2
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

In Pan:

  • 2-1/2 cups (8 oz.; 236g) penne pasta uncooked Note 3
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces (340g) frozen corn Note 4
  • 2 cups (200g) frozen broccoli, coarsely chopped
  • 9 oz. (255g) chicken sausage, cut into half moons (Note 5)
  • 1/2 cup (52g) Parmesan cheese Note 6
  • Optional: 1/2 cup fresh basil or fresh basil pesto Note 7

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray.
  • BLEND: Add all the ingredients under the "blend together" heading (corn, seasonings, milk, garlic and flour) to a powerful blender or food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I add 1 tsp fine sea salt and 3/4 tsp pepper). Blend until completely smooth, 1-2 minutes.
  • BAKE: Add uncooked pasta in an even layer to the prepared pan. Pour everything from the blender on top and toss with pasta. Press the pasta below the sauce. Add butter (cut into 2 pieces) on top. Cover pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  • BAKE AGAIN: Remove foil, and stir everything together really well. Add in frozen corn, frozen broccoli, and chicken sausage. Stir through. Return the pan to the oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15 minutes or until pasta is tender and sauce is thickened. (Don't overbake or the sauce will bake out.) Remove from the oven and gently stir for a minute. Add in the Parmesan cheese, several tablespoons at a time, while stirring constantly. (Don't add all at once or it will clump.) Mix in the basil if using (rip into small pieces or cut into ribbons) or top individual plates with a scoop of pesto if desired. Serve immediately!

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Corn: Add the entire can (don't drain or rinse). For a fun flavor variation that we love, use a can of southwestern corn and add 1 teaspoon paprika to the blender -- delish!
Note 2: Milk: Any plant-based (or dairy-based) milk that you enjoy works here. We use plain unsweetened almond milk (30 cals per cup) to keep this on the lighter side.
Note 3: Pasta: This recipe works best with penne or rotini pasta, which are both great at soaking everything up and baking through perfectly in the time.  Ensure whatever pasta is being used has a similar boil time to penne/rotini (9-11 minutes).
Note 4: Frozen corn and broccoli: It's important to use both frozen corn and broccoli instead of fresh -- this recipe relies on the liquid from both.
Note 5: Chicken sausage: Any smoked sausage works here. We like smoked chicken sausage best (Aidell’s® Italian Style is our fave -- we use 3 links in this recipe). It keeps things nice and healthy and tastes great. Turkey sausage is another fave. Note that we only use 9 ounces of sausage. Most smoked sausage comes in packages of 12-14 ounces, so save what's left for another recipe. If you can't find another use for it, you can add it to this dish -- it works fine, and it will be very meaty!
Note 6: Parmesan cheese: Grab a block of Parmesan and grate it on the small holes of a grater. Alternatively, use finely grated Parmesan cheese. Parmesan from the can will be too salty and won't melt into the sauce nicely.
Note 7: Basil or pesto: This dish benefits from fresh basil or a scoop of pesto. Each adds freshness and brightness as well as a great flavor. I'd recommend at least one of these toppings!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 611kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 26.9g | Fat: 21.2g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 876.7mg | Fiber: 6.7g | Sugar: 15.4g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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