How to make a better pasta bake

Pasta bakes are a family favourite, but there are some common mistakes that can get in the way. Find out why your pasta bake is mushy, watery or dry, and how you can avoid those problems. Plus find out how to get a delicious and crunchy top on your bake every time.

In partnership and featuring recipes from Perfect Italiano.  

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How to make a better pasta bake

Pasta bake, in all of its cheese-topped glory, ticks every box. This family dinner favourite is the ultimate veggie smuggler recipe, making it a gem for fussy eaters, plus it’s second to none when it comes to comfort food. Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered, "can you freeze pasta bake?" – the answer is yes!

Before you get started on your pasta bake, take note of the following tips and FAQs which will help you to achieve perfectly cooked pasta, a flavoursome sauce and to create the all-important bubbly and golden top.

Tips for a better pasta bake

Undercook your pasta 

Avoid mushy pasta by undercooking the pasta in the boiling phase. Simply take away 2-3 minutes from the recommended cooking time on the packet. The pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so it will be perfectly tender when it’s time to serve.

Why is my pasta bake watery?

There are a couple of reasons why your pasta bake might be runny. Sauce that is thick at room temperature or from the fridge will thin out in the hot oven. It is better to have a thicker sauce at the beginning, so it will be the right consistency after cooking.

TIP: Find out how to thicken any sauce or stew here.

The addition of vegetables could also be the culprit. Vegetables release lots of water when cooked. If you’re adding extra vegetables to your recipe, sauté them in a pan to reduce their water content before adding them in. Frozen vegetables should be defrosted and drained.

Why is my pasta bake dry?

Pasta absorbs liquid from the sauce as it cooks. If there's too much pasta and not enough sauce, you can end up with a dry bake. It’s best to follow the recommended amounts in the recipe for a pasta bake that’s just right. If you're cooking without a recipe, add the pasta to the sauce in batches so you can stop before you add too much. Generally, you want your pasta bake to look extra saucy before it goes in the oven.

Check your seasoning

Make sure each component of your pasta bake is seasoned well before it goes into the oven. Remember to cook your pasta in salted water, season your sauce and use a flavourful cheese.

Use the right cheese

The best way to achieve a tasty pasta bake with a crunchy top is to use the right blend of cheeses. Some types of cheddar can become oily, and mozzarella can be too mild if you prefer a full flavour. Perfect Italiano Perfect Bakes is made to have just the right ratio of cheddar for flavour, mozzarella for colour and stretch, and parmesan for bite. It melts beautifully and gives crunchy, golden tops on bakes every time.

TIP: To add even more crunch to the top of your pasta bake, sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs on top of your cheese before baking.

Let your pasta bake rest

Okay, so it’s a little hard to resist the urge to serve up all that baked goodness right out of the oven, however it’s important to wait 5-10 minutes. This gives the bake time to firm up slightly, so your pasta bake will hold its shape and be easier to serve and eat.

More pasta bake recipes

Check out lots of pasta bake recipes below! These have been tested so that they will always come out just right. Click for a collection of pasta bake recipes.

Don't forget you can save these recipes to your own ecookbook using your free myfoodbook account. Login to start saving, or create an account if you don't have one yet.

Get the recipe: Pumpkin, Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

These stuffed pasta shells take a bit of time but you get an amazing result. Stuffed with creamy ricotta, bacon and spinach, the flavour of this bake makes it worth the effort.

Get the recipe: 30-Minute Pizza Pasta Bake

This saucy gnocchi dish smuggles in plenty of vegetables and has a great pizza flavour that both kids and adults absolutely love.

Get the recipe: Italian Meatball Pasta Bake

This meatball pasta bake is a great way to use mince, the meatballs can be made ahead of time and frozen so you can whip up this easy weeknight meal in no time.


*DISCLAIMER: Perfect Italiano is a contributing recipe partner at This feature includes a mix of content sourced from Perfect Italiano and our own opinions. You can find out more about the full range of Perfect Italiano Cheese here.

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