This comforting vegetarian pasta bake is made with ziti and loaded with fresh or frozen veggies, Italian seasoned tempeh, and a whole lot of shredded mozzarella. It's perfect for weeknight dinners and is ready in just about 30 minutes!
This vegetarian pasta bake is the answer to all of your weeknight dinner prayers. Easy, cheesy, and just delicious, this recipe comes together in under an hour and is meat-eater approved.
If you're new to cooking with tempeh, this is a great recipe to start with. The tempeh is crumbled up and simmered with tomato sauce and Italian seasonings, which gives it a great flavor and texture.
- Veggie-packed: Made with zucchini, bell pepper, and red onion but can easily be customized to use your favorite fresh or frozen veggies.
- Balanced: Features ziti, veggies, and plant-based protein from tempeh for a nutritionally balanced meal.
- Convenient: This recipe is easily modified to use whatever ingredients you have on hand. Choose your favorite pasta sauce, vegetables, and pasta.
- Quick: This recipe is great for weeknight dinners because it is ready in just about 30 minutes.
This veggie pasta bake is a lot like my rigatoni bake but with the addition of veggies. You will love this recipe if you're a fan of pantry-friendly pasta recipes like this one-pot chili mac and these vegan stuffed shells.
Ingredients and customization
- Tempeh: If you're new to tempeh, it has a slightly nutty flavor. We're simmering it with Italian seasoning, soy sauce, and tomato sauce for extra flavor. You can use tofu if you prefer it to tempeh.
- Ziti: Ziti is preferred, but rigatoni or penne also work.
- Veggies: Squash, red bell pepper, and red onion are my go-to vegetables, but other veggies like peas, broccoli, and mushrooms also work.
- Pasta sauce: Arguably the most important part, as it contributes a lot of flavor to this dish. Go for classic tomato sauce or get creative with vodka, alfredo, or even a pesto sauce.
- Shredded mozzarella: The cheesy factor takes this pasta bake from yum to YUM! For a vegan option, omit the cheese or replace it with your favorite vegan mozzarella-style shreds.
- Garnishes: Don't skip fresh basil as it adds a lot to the recipe! I also garnish with freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes on each serving.
How to make
Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F.
Step 1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once shimmering and hot, add crumbled tempeh, squash, and peppers. Saute for 6-8 minutes, until the peppers are softened and the onion starts to turn golden.
Step 2. Add tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and soy sauce to the dish. Cover and let simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. After simmering, stir in arugula or spinach (optional) and let wilt.
Step 3. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package instructions. Cook until al dente. This means that it should be tender enough to pierce with a fork, but not so soft that it's mushy.
Step 4. Stir the cooked pasta and pasta sauce into the veggie and tempeh mixture.
Step 5. Lightly spray a 9x16 baking dish with cooking oil. Transfer the vegetable pasta bake to the dish. Cover with the mozzarella cheese.
Step 6. Bake at 375F for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. After 5 minutes, turn the heat to broil. This is what makes the cheese bubbly and golden. Keep an eye on the pasta as it broils because it will go from golden to burned in just seconds!
- Cook vegetables before adding them to pasta bakes. Cooking veggies makes them more flavorful and removes a lot of their moisture. Adding raw vegetables to the bake makes it watery. Which, as you might guess, is not good.
- Cook pasta to al dente. This means that the pasta is fork-tender but still has a bit of a "bite" or texture to it.
- Broil the cheese. This makes the cheese golden and bubbly, but it also makes it more attractive than a puddle of melted cheese.
- Broiling tip: Keep an eye on the cheese as it broils because it will go from golden to burned in just seconds! If your oven doesn't have a broiler, simply turn the oven up to 500F. It won't have the exact same effect but should still cook the cheese quickly.
- Serving suggestions: This goes so well with a side arugula salad.
- To make gluten-free: Use gluten-free pasta in place of regular pasta. Use gluten-free tamari in place of soy sauce.
- To make vegan: Choose your favorite vegan mozzarella style shreds or omit mozzarella completely. Cashew parmesan would go very well on this bake (similar to my vegan pasta bake)!
- Veggies: Use fresh or frozen vegetables but make sure to cook them before adding them to the pasta. Mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli are just a few great vegetable options.
- Not a fan of tempeh? Try using tofu instead, or add chickpeas as a protein source. If using beans, skip the sauteeing step and add them in with the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning.
- Flexitarian option: For a non-vegetarian version of this dish, feel free to add your favorite cooked sausage in place of tempeh.
Storage, freezing, and make-ahead tips
- Make-ahead: The pasta sauce and veggie filling can be made up to 48 hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.
- Leftovers: Let the pasta bake cool to room temperature before refrigerating. Cover with a lid and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: To reheat, heat individual slices in the microwave for 2-3 minutes or cook the entire casserole at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until heated through.
- Freezing: Let the pasta cool to room temperature before freezing. Freeze the entire pasta bake or freeze individual servings in freezer-safe containers. Make sure to cover it tightly with a lid or wax paper and foil. When ready to reheat, let it thaw overnight in the fridge then cover with foil and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, until heated through.
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Vegetarian Pasta Bake with Veggies
- 16 ounces ziti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium zucchini sliced into half moons
- 1 medium red bell pepper sliced into strips
- 1 medium red onion sliced into thin strips
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 8 ounces Italian seasoned tomato sauce (see note)
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups arugula or spinach about 2 handfuls (optional)
- 24 ounces pasta sauce
- 1 and ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- fresh chopped basil for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x16 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
- Prepare ziti according to package instructions in well-salted water. Cook until al dente.
- Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering and hot, add zucchini, peppers, and onion. Use clean hands to crumble tempeh into the pan. Add minced garlic and saute for 6-8 minutes, stirring as needed. The peppers and onions are ready when softened and a little golden.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, soy sauce and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Once done simmering, stir in the arugula or spinach.
- Combine the pasta sauce and cooked ziti with the vegetables and tempeh. Stir to mix together.
- Transfer the ziti and veggies to the lightly oiled 9x16 dish. Bake at 375F for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Turn on the broiler and bake an addition 1-2 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden. Keep an eye on the cheese as it broils to avoid burning it.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped basil. Enjoy hot.
- Tomato sauce: A can of Italian tomato sauce has extra Italian seasonings added and might just be labeled as having additional basil or oregano. A regular unseasoned tomato sauce will also work if that is what you have on hand.
- Pasta sauce: Choose a regular marinara-style pasta sauce or basil, Italian, or garlic seasoned sauce.
- Vegetables: You can use fresh or frozen vegetables in this recipe. Cook vegetables before using. Most vegetables will work, like mushrooms, peas and broccoli.
- Protein variations: Try using a block of tofu instead, or add chickpeas as a protein source. If using beans, skip the sauteing step and add them in with the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning.
- Freezing: This recipe will keep up to 4 days in the fridge. To reheat, heat in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or cover and bake at 350 degrees until heated through about 15-20 minutes. See blog post for tips on making ahead and freezing.
Did you make this recipe?
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Great idea. Thank you. I made a couple of modifications. I cubed my tempeh seasoned with soy sauce some olive oil, garlic powder, oregano and a tiny bit of truffle oil. I seared it off by itself And set it aside. In the same pan I threw in all the veggies. I used whatever I had in the house that day. Ended up with some scallions cut lengthwise and cut in half, some red bell pepper, some julienned carrots, a medley of mushrooms that I chopped into smaller pieces. I’ll season that with some olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes and garlic powder. I cooked it to the moisture went out. Then I deglazed the pan with a laddle of pasta water. Then cooked them dry again. I drained off any excess water and oil and returned it to the hot pan. And then took it off the heat and stirred in my spinach. And then returned it to the heat for about 20 to 30 seconds so the spinach with just wilt without adding more liquid to the mix. I did not add the sauce to this mixture. When doing my layers I went sauce (just a thin layer on the bottom of a glass casserole dish, pasta,veg, Tempeh, Sauce, mozzarella, pasta,sauce, veg, tempeh, mozzarella, grated Parmesan, topped with fresh basil. It was amazing. It also baked for closer to 35 mins covered and 12 uncovered. Cooked for 10 mins or so.
Cassidy Reeser, RDN, LD
The truffle oil sounds especially good! Thanks for making it.