The perfect comfort food for the whole family, this Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake is great for a busy weeknight meal that everyone will enjoy.
We all love a filling dish and pasta recipes that can be assembled ahead of time for easy cooking on busy weeknights, and this bolognese bake will not disappoint.
A simple twist on a classic, we also have slow cooker spaghetti bolognese you my like.
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? And don't forget the cheese!
Check out the video above to see how easy it is to make this Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake recipe. Or use the below to jump straight to what you need to know?
Bolognese Sauce is known as Ragu alla Bolognese in Italy and is never served with Spaghetti!
Instead, you may find it served with Tagliatelle or another ribbon-type pasta. It originated from Bologna and is the town's signature dish. Nowadays, there are many bolognese recipes and variations to choose from!
We have made ours with minced beef in a bolognese sauce, mixed with cooked pasta shells, popped into a casserole or baking dish before sprinkling with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and oven-baking.
Our recipe for bolognese pasta bake can easily be adjusted to suit the whole family. Read on for some suitable variations, substitutions or extras to add to your pasta bakes.Jump to Recipe
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In this pasta bake with mince recipe we used dried pasta shells but penne pasta or rigatoni works really well too.
In fact, any pasta that will capture the meat and bolognese sauce will make a good pasta bake, so use whatever you like!
Olive Oil is best as it's a healthier option, cooks well and has a nice flavour. You could substitute for any oil or butter you like to use.
Onions or Shallots add a great flavour to the Bolognese. We prefer shallots as they give a sweeter, softer and more delicate flavour.
For a tastier meal, we suggest using 15-20% minced beef, however, if you want a low-fat option 5% minced beef works well too!
We tend to use 5% mince for a midweek dinner. But, if we are making for guests, we will go for a higher fat content mince.
Use fresh or frozen mince and for something different use other mince such as turkey mince, chicken mince or pork mince instead.
We used pancetta to stick with the Italian theme, but you could also use bacon lardons or chopped-up slices of bacon if that is what you have to hand!
We love mushrooms and think they add a great flavour, but if you’re not a mushroom fan or your kids hate them, leave these out!
Our homemade bolognese sauce is a delicious mix of ingredients as below.
If you rarely cook or want to cheat, you can use a jar of bolognese sauce instead. But I love to make my own, and it only takes a few seconds to throw the ingredients together in a deep frying pan.
Tomato and Garlic Puree
We like to use a Tomato and Garlic Puree for ease, but you could use plain tomato puree and add a clove of crushed garlic.
Want a bit of spice in your bolognese pasta bake sauce? Chilli Puree gives a subtle kick that mixes in evenly to the bolognese sauce.
You could substitute with a finely chopped chilli or with chilli flakes. Adjust the spice level to suit your family!
Passata is an easy base for a tomato meat sauce, you could also substitute it with strained and sieved tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes.
We like to use mixed italian herbs but you could use fresh herbs or others that you prefer.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Adding cherry tomatoes gives a wonderfully sweet flavour to the pasta bolognese bake and is perfect if you want extra veggies in your kid's dinner.
This depends on which you prefer! Use your favourite cheese!
Any strength of cheddar cheese can be used, mature cheddar is great as you don’t need much to get the rich cheesy taste.
Mozzarella gives that lovely stringy appearance but doesn’t have much flavour. Parmesan doesn’t look as nice, but is nice and cheesy.
We love to add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese over mozzarella to get the perfect look with a nice strong cheesy taste!
You will need a baking dish large enough to cook the cheesy bolognese bake in, a large frying pan to brown the mince, wooden spoons for stirring and a large pan to cook the pasta.
The full instructions to make bolognese bake are in the recipe card below with step by step pictures along the way.
But here is a quick run-through of the process.
Recipe bolognese pasta sauce
To start, fry sliced onion in olive oil over medium heat, once they have started to turn golden, you will add the mince and pancetta, stir and break it up until it starts to brown!
Remember, it will continue cooking in the oven, so take care not to overcook your mince or it will be dry.
Add the chopped mushrooms and stir them through until they have softened. You can drain away excess fat from the mince if needed.
Now it’s time to make your homemade sauce. Stir through the garlic and tomato purée, chilli puree (if using), passata and herbs, and season with salt & pepper before bringing the bolognese to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat, and leave your sauce to simmer for 15 minutes uncovered.
Whilst that simmers, start cooking your pasta and preheat the oven to 180°C fan/ 200°C /400°F/ Gas Mark 6.
Cooking Pasta for Pasta Bake
Unlike most pasta recipes that call for Al Dente pasta, this dish needs the pasta to be cooked in boiling salted water for half the time stated on the packet.
The time will vary depending on the shape and brand you are using.
This will allow the pasta to continue cooking in the mince pasta bake sauce without turning to mush.
Add the cooked pasta and some cherry tomatoes to the sauce, mix them through and then pour them into your pasta bake baking dish.
Sprinkle over your mozzarella, cheddar cheese or parmesan cheese and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve piping hot.
Or why not try serving it with our amazing olive and herb focaccia bread?
📖 Step by Step Recipe
Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Onion or 2 shallots
- 500 g Beef Mince (1 lb) Lean 5% mince if wanting to keep low fat or 15-20% for best flavour
- 90 g Pancetta (3 oz) or substitute bacon lardons / chopped bacon
- 150 grams Mushrooms (5 oz) 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 Passata (2 ¼ cup) substitute with strained, sieved tomatoes or tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Mixed Herbs We used Italian mixed herbs
- 1 Bay leaf
- 300 grams Pasta Shells (3 cups) or any pasta shape you like/have to hand
- 100 grams Cherry Tomatoes (about 12) optional
- 100 grams Mozzarella or medium-mature cheddar (1 cup) 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
- Parmesan Cheese
- Fry onions/shallots in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft and golden1 tablespoon Olive Oil, 1 Onion
- 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.)500 g Beef Mince (1 lb), 90 g Pancetta (3 oz)
- Add mushroom and stir through.150 grams Mushrooms (5 oz)
- 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.Preheat Oven at 180°C fan/ 200°C /400°F/ Gas Mark 6.2 tablespoon Tomato and Garlic Puree, 1 teaspoon Chilli Puree / 1 fresh finely chopped chilli or ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (Optional), 500 grams Passata (2 ¼ cup), 1 tablespoon Mixed Herbs, 1 Bay leaf, Salt & Pepper
- 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)300 grams Pasta Shells (3 cups)
- Add cherry tomatoes & drained pasta to the sauce and stir through making sure it is well mixed.100 grams Cherry Tomatoes (about 12)
- Pour the pasta and bolognese into a large ovenproof casserole dish
- Sprinkle with your choice of cheese100 grams Mozzarella or medium-mature cheddar (1 cup), Parmesan (if stronger taste desired)
- Bake in the preheated oven (180°C fan/ 200°C /400°F/ Gas Mark 6) , uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Finish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and extra cheeseServe as it is, or with salad or garlic bread.Fresh Basil or Parsley, Parmesan Cheese
This post was originally published on 25/08/2020 and was modified on 05/12/2022 with updated information and clearer instructions on the recipe card for the best bolognese pasta bake.
The pasta bake can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
Alternatively, you can also make it up in advance until the stage where it goes into the oven and store it in the fridge to be baked within 24 hours.
Bear in mind, when putting it in the oven to bake it from chilled, it will take a little longer to cook. So make sure to check on it and bake until the pasta is heated through and the cheese is golden and bubbling!
Pasta Bolognese Bake can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Yes, you can use your favourite jarred sauce instead of the homemade sauce. Simply heat and stir to combine before adding to the pasta bake mixture.
Absolutely. Carrot and celery are traditional things to add, but you can add anything that your family will enjoy. Make sure that hard vegetables are cooked first unless you like them a little crunchy!
Yes, just cook to the packet instructions before adding to the dish.
You can use any pasta shape you like for this recipe, just adjust cooking times to suit.
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