An easy weeknight dinner recipe, Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake. A simple twist on a classic Italian Spaghetti Bolognese.
How to make Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake?
Beef mince cooked with onions, pancetta, mushrooms, passata, garlic, tomato and optional chilli, if you like it spicy?
Bolognese is mixed with cooked pasta shells, into a casserole dish before sprinkling with Mozzarella and Parmesan and oven-baked.
See our step by step slide show on how we make our pasta bake, full ingredients and instructions are on the card below.
Jump straight to the Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake recipe card using link belowJump to Recipe
Or read on for futher tips and tricks for making the best pasta bake.
Onions or shallots for bolognese pasta bake?
Onions or shallots can be used for making your bolognese, preferably shallots as they give a sweeter, softer more delicate flavour.
What beef mince to use for bolognese?
Depending on if you are trying to cut back on fat or not? For best results use a 15-20% minced beef. This will give you a fuller meatier flavour.
However, if trying to keep fat levels down, use a lower fat beef mince such as a 5% mince.
We tend to use a 5% mince for a midweek dinner. But, if we are making for guests we will go for a higher fat content mince.
Substitute for Pancetta?
We used pancetta to stick with the Italian theme, although, you can use bacon lardons or just chopped up slices of bacon.
Adjusting the spiciness of Bolognese pasta bake sauce?
We like to add a bit of spice to our Bolognese Pasta Bake sauce. Gia chilli puree gives a subtle kick that mixes in evenly to the bolognese sauce.
You can substitute with a finely chopped red chilli or use chilli flakes.
Then again, when serving up with people who may like it milder? Simply cook without chilli and then add chilli flakes to your own personal plates as desired?
What pasta shape to use for Pasta Bake?
Shelled or tubed pasta, such as conchiglie, penne or rigatoni are the best, to capture the meat and bolognese inside them.
Nevertheless, you can use other shapes such as twisted pasta shapes, ie. Fusilli.
How long to cook pasta before adding to a pasta bake?
Cook chosen pasta shape for bolognese pasta bake for about ½ the time instructed on the pasta instructions.
Remember the pasta is going to be added to the hot bolognese sauce and cooked for longer in the oven, so don't worry if it is still a bit firm when draining.
What cheese is best to top pasta bake with?
This is dependant on what you desire, mozzarella cheese will give a lovely melted cheese appearance without adding much fat but also not much flavour.
In contrast, adding a sprinkle of Parmesan on top of the mozzarella will give a stronger cheesy flavour.
Alternatively, when more flavour is desired, try using a medium to mature cheddar, which will keep the melted look with extra flavour.
What to serve with Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake?
In order to feed a family of 6, we serve Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake with a side salad and garlic bread.
Then again, can also be served as it as, in which case, there is plenty for a family of 4.
Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Onion or 2 shallots
- 500 g (1 lb) Beef Mince Lean 5% mince if wanting to keep low fat or 15-20% for best flavour
- 90 g (3 oz) Pancetta or substitute bacon lardons / chopped bacon
- 150 grams (5 oz) Mushrooms chopped
- 2 tablespoon Tomato and Garlic Puree or substitute with 2tbsp regular tomato puree and 1 clove of crushed garlic.
- 1 teaspoon Chilli Puree / 1 fresh finely chopped chilli or ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (Optional) Do not use or add more to your desired spiciness
- 500 grams (2 ¼ cup) Passata substitute with strained, sieved tomatoes or tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Mixed Herbs We used Italian mixed herbs
- 1 Bay leaf
- 300 grams (3 cups) Pasta Shells or any pasta shape you like/have to hand
- 100 grams about 12 Cherry Tomatoes optional
- 100 grams (1 cup) Mozzarella or medium-mature cheddar see note in the blog post about which cheese to use
- Parmesan (if stronger taste desired)
- Salt & Pepper
To serve (optional)
- Fresh Basil or Parsley torn & scattered on top
- Side Salad
- Garlic Bread
- Extra Parmesan Cheese to serve
- Preheat Oven at 200°C /400 °FFry onions/shallots in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft and golden
- Add mince and pancetta, fry on medium heat, breaking down the mince with a spatula until the mince has just started to brown. (Do not overcook at this point as it will dry the meat out, remember it will continue to cook in sauce & in the oven.)
- Add mushroom and stir through.
- Stir through the tomato & garlic puree, chilli puree (if using), passata, herbs and season with salt & pepper before bringing to the boil. Leave to simmer for 15 minutes uncovered.
- Meanwhile, cook your pasta for ½ the recommended time stated on the packet. (remember it will continue to cook in the sauce in the oven so it's ok that it is still firm when drained)
- Add cherry tomatoes & drained pasta to the sauce and stir through making sure it is well mixed.
- Pour the pasta and bolognese into a large ovenproof casserole dish
- Sprinkle with your choice of cheese
- Bake in the preheated oven, uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Serve as it is, or with salad and garlic bread
Another option, is to serve up with our delicious Olive & Herb Focaccia Bread?