This comforting vegetable pasta bake is made with Italian seasoned tempeh and is cheesy as can be. Perfect for weeknight dinners or meal prep!
This vegetarian pasta bake is the answer to all of your weeknight dinner prayers. Easy, cheesey and just delicious, this recipe comes together in under an hour and is meat-eater approved.
If you’re new to 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.
You can easily modify this recipe to fit what you have on hand. Choose your favorite pasta sauce, vegetables, and pasta and let’s get cooking!
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The vegetarian pasta bake is made up of five main components:
Italian tempeh — Made with Italian seasoning, soy sauce, tomato sauce and crumbled tempeh.
Pasta — Choose a small pasta like rotini, elbows, or rigatoni.
Veggies — Squash and bell pepper are my preferred 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 a vodka, alfredo, or pesto sauce.
Shredded mozzarella — The cheesey factor takes this casserole from yum to YUM! For a vegan option, omit the cheese or replace with your favorite vegan mozzarella-style shreds.
How to make
First and foremost, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Step 1. Start by making the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once shimmering and hot, add crumbled tempeh, squash and peppers. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until the peppers are softened.
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 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. Assemble the dish: Lightly spray a 9 x 13 or 11 x 11 baking dish with cooking spray. Evenly distribute each layer:
- 1 cup pasta sauce (image one)
- 1/2 of the pasta (image two)
- 1/2 of the veggie and tempeh mixture (image three)
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (image four)
- 1 cup pasta sauce
- 1/2 of the pasta
- 1/2 of the veggie and tempeh mixture
- 1 cup pasta sauce
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Step 5. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the mozzarella is bubbling and lightly browning.
Can I freeze this recipe?
This casserole is best frozen in individual servings in freezer-safe containers. Let the pasta cool to room temperature in the fridge before freezing.
To reheat, heat in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or cook in an oven-safe container at 350 degrees until thawed, about 15-20 minutes.
- To make gluten-free: Swap out standard pasta for gluten-free 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 pasta bake!
- Use your favorite fresh or frozen vegetables. Mushrooms, carrots, and broccoli are just a few ways you can switch things up!
- Not a fan of tempeh? Try using 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.
Tempeh and Vegetable Pasta Bake
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red bell pepper chopped
- 1 medium zucchini chopped
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 6 ounces Italian seasoned tomato sauce (see note)
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups arugula or spinach about 2 handfuls
- 2 and 1/2 cups dry whole wheat rotini
- 24 ounces pasta sauce
- 1 and 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once shimmering and hot, add zucchini and peppers. Use clean hands to crumble tempeh into the pan. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until the peppers are softened.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, soy sauce and salt. Cover and let simmer for 5 minutes over medium-low heat to allow the flavors to develop. Once done simmering, stir in the arugula or spinach.
- Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package instructions. Cook until al dente.
- Lightly spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. To assemble, start by spreading 1 cup of pasta sauce in the dish. Top with 1/2 of the pasta, then half of the vegetables. Top with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella. Add 1 cup pasta sauce, the rest of the pasta, then the vegetables, then 1 more cup of pasta sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm.
- 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. Most sauces--even vodka sauce or pesto--will work well in this recipe.
- Vegetables: You can use fresh or frozen vegetables in this recipe. 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 5 days in the fridge. If you want to freeze the casserole, I recommend doing so in individual portions in freezer-safe containers. To reheat, heat in the microwave for 3-4 minutes or bake in an oven-safe container at 350 degrees until thawed, about 15-20 minutes.