Cottage Cheese Pasta Bake
This super EASY cottage cheese pasta bake is made with tomato sauce, broccoli, spinach, and protein-packed cottage cheese. It’s creamy on the inside, with a layer of crispy melted cheese and penne pasta on the top. Perfect for a healthy, vegetarian dinner for the whole family!
Adding cottage cheese to pasta is such a simple, yet genius way of adding more protein and creaminess to a pasta recipe. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of it sooner!!
This pasta bake with cottage cheese is one of those dishes that can become an easy go-to for your family. It’s beyond simple to make – just cook your pasta, sauté a couple veggies, then combine everything with cottage cheese and tomato sauce in a baking dish. Pop that in the oven and you’ll have a cheesy, yet nutritious dinner ready 20 minutes later!
As a dietitian, I’m happy to share that cottage cheese is not only PACKED with protein, but also other nutrition benefits like calcium and B-vitamins. This healthy pasta recipe is also a delicious source of veggies, like broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes 🙂
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About the ingredients + substitutions
- Pasta: You are welcome to use any SHORT pasta shape of your choice – penne, rigatoni, farfalle, etc. For gluten-free diets, be sure to use a certified gluten-free pasta. For a higher protein pasta, feel free to choose one made from legumes, like chickpea pasta!
- Cottage cheese: I used a 2% fat cottage cheese for this recipe. It gets stirred into the pasta, along with the tomato sauce and veggies, before popping in the oven. Cottage cheese packs in tons of vegetarian protein AND makes this pasta nice and creamy.
- Shredded mozzarella: Added to the top of the pasta bake, this is the cheese that melts and gets a little crisp – characteristic of most pasta bakes. You’re welcome to use another shredded cheese that melts well, like cheddar.
- Marinara sauce: I love using this marinara sauce from Rao’s, but you are welcome to use any tomato sauce you like (homemade or store-bought)! You’ll need 2 cups for this recipe.
- Broccoli: To get some extra veggies in! You can use a large crown of broccoli, or purchase pre-cut broccoli florets. If preferred, you could likely swap the broccoli with another veggie, like chopped zucchini or bell peppers.
- Spinach: Added for some extra greens! Feel free to swap with kale, if preferred.
- Garlic: Some freshly minced garlic cloves are added for an extra punch of flavour.
- Olive oil: Used to pre-cook the veggies in a pan, before combining them with the rest of the ingredients.
- Fresh basil: Added as a garnish at the end, for extra flavour – basil pairs wonderfully with tomatoes and cheese.
Full ingredient measurements and detailed instructions are located in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post!
Visual guide: how to make cottage cheese pasta bake
STEP 1: Start by cooking pasta al dente. You can use any short pasta shape, such as penne (as pictured).
STEP 2: While pasta cooks, sauté broccoli florets and minced garlic in olive oil. After a few minutes, add in spinach until that wilts too.
STEP 3: To a large baking dish, add cooked pasta, cooked veggies, marinara sauce, and cottage cheese.
STEP 4: Stir everything together until well-combined.
STEP 5: Top with shredded mozzarella, or another type of cheese that melts well.
STEP 6: Pop everything in the oven for 20 minutes, until the top layer of cheese is melted and nicely browned. Garnish with fresh basil and that’s it!
Cottage cheese nutrition benefits
Cottage cheese is best known as a high protein source – 1 cup of cottage cheese provides about 28 grams of complete protein!
Cottage cheese is also a source of many vitamins and minerals, including:
- vitamin B12
- riboflavin (B2)
- vitamin B6
More vegetarian pasta recipes
- Simple Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Miso Mushroom Pasta (No Cream!)
- Lemon Kale Pasta With Fried Eggs
- Baked Penne Pesto Pasta
- Vegetarian Taco Pasta Bake
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Get the Recipe: Cottage Cheese Pasta Bake (Easy & Healthy!)
- 3 cups penne pasta, dry (or other short pasta shape)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups broccoli florets (about 5 ounces or 142 grams)
- 3 cups baby spinach (tightly packed! or 3 large handfuls)
- 2 cups cottage cheese, 2%MF (500 gram or 17 ounce container)
- 2 cups marinara (or other tomato sauce)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- 5 large leaves fresh basil, chopped (to garnish)
- PREP: Preheat oven to 400F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you wait, you can chop broccoli into florets and mince garlic.
- Cook pasta to al dente, according to package instructions. Drain when finished.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high. Add minced garlic and broccoli florets, and sauté for about 7 minutes. Then, add spinach and continue to cook until it wilts. Remove from heat.
- To a large baking dish, add cooked pasta, cooked broccoli and spinach, cottage cheese, and marinara sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper, then stir everything together until well-combined.
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella overtop, coating the pasta evenly.
- Place baking dish in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is melted and nicely browned. Garnish with fresh basil and serve hot!
- You are welcome to use any SHORT pasta shape of your choice – penne, rigatoni, farfalle, etc. For gluten-free diets, be sure to use a certified . For a higher protein pasta, feel free to choose one made from legumes, like !
- Instead of broccoli, you may use other veggies like chopped zucchini or bell peppers.
- Instead of spinach, you could also try making this with kale.
- Instead of mozzarella, you could use another shredded cheese that melts well, like cheddar.
As a dietitian, I create recipes with whole food ingredients that provide the nutrients needed for optimal health. My nutrition philosophy does not focus on numbers; however, I understand that this information can be helpful.
Do note that the nutrition info provided is an estimate and I cannot guarantee correctness of the displayed values. These numbers will differ depending on brands used, recipe modifications, and amount eaten. If you require specific nutrition information due to medical reasons, please consult with your dietitian or physician.