Healthy Pasta Bake

Food

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 together 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 the healthy pasta bake

Overhead image of the healthy pasta bake

Do You Cook Pasta Before Making Pasta Bake?

Not for this Healthy Pasta Bake 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 Chicken 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-- images of all the ingredients being added to the blender and it being blended and added to the dish

Process shots-- images of all the ingredients being added to the blender and it being blended and added 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 throw it in this dish — it works fine, but it will be very meat-y! (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 to find we were out of plain canned corn. I used a can of southwestern corn instead, added in 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) simply to warm chicken through (don’t bake it for 20 minutes — it will dry out the chicken).
  • How to make a healthy tuna pasta bake: leave out the sausage and replace with 2 cans of well drained tuna instead (place drained tuna on top — don’t mix it through) and bake.
  • Healthy pasta bake vegetarian: 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 may need to 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 needed extra seasonings.

Process shots-- images of the corn, broccoli, and sausage being added and it all being cooked together and then parmesan being added

Process shots-- images of the corn, broccoli, and sausage being added and it all being cooked together and then parmesan being added

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: grab 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, ensure 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 be missing out on some flavor/richness.
  • Frozen corn & 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 healthy pasta bake nicely.

Up close overhead image of the healthy pasta bake ready to be eaten

Up close overhead image of the healthy pasta bake ready to be eaten

More Veggie-Packed Dinner Recipes

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 together the sauce, pour it over uncooked pasta, and then let the oven do all the work!

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 together the sauce, pour it over uncooked pasta, and then let the oven do all the work!

Ingredients

Blend Together:

  • 1 can (15 oz.; 432g) undrained sweet yellow corn 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 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 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.

  • BLEND: Add all the ingredients under “blend together” 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 blender on top and toss with pasta. Press pasta below 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 pan to oven, uncovered, and bake for another 15 minutes or until pasta is tender and sauce is thickened. (don’t over-bake or sauce will bake out). Remove from oven and gently stir for a minute. Add in the parmesan cheese, a couple tablespoons at a time, while stirring constantly (don’t add all at once, it will clump). Mix through basil if using (rip into small pieces or cut into ribbons) or top individual plates with a scoop of pesto if using. Enjoy immediately!

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Corn: add the entire can (don’t drain/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 even 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 bakes 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 & Broccoli: Important to use both frozen corn and broccoli instead of fresh — this recipe is relying 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, plus 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 a link for another recipe. If you can’t find another use for it, you can throw it in this dish — it works fine, but it will be very meat-y!

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 really 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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