This grownup version of mac and cheese features a cheesy sauce with the subtly sweet flavor of ricotta and fresh tomatoes, which give it a pop of flavor and color. Totally tasty and easy to make, this Creamy Pasta with Ricotta and Tomatoes is sure to become a favorite.
Using a fun shape of pasta helps to keep this dish fun for the kids, too, but one bite of this creamy and cheesy sauce, and they’ll be hooked!
What You Need To Make Pasta with Ricotta and Tomatoes
- A large pot for boiling the pasta
- Dried pasta
- Ricotta cheese – use fresh ricotta that’s creamy, not salad ricotta which comes in a hard block
- Mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Fresh tomatoes
- All-purpose flour
- Onion and garlic
- Salt and pepper, cayenne powder
- Parsley for garnish
What Kind of Tomatoes Should I Use?
I’ve made this recipe with drained canned tomatoes and I just love the flavor of the fresh tomatoes so much more. A good choice would be a Roma tomato. These have fewer seeds and less water content than some other tomatoes.
Alternatively, any tomato will work; just be sure to remove as much of the seed and pulp as you can before adding it, so it doesn’t water down your pasta. You could even use sundried tomato that’s been drained and chopped.
What Kind of Pasta Should I Use?
I used fusilli in this tomato ricotta pasta recipe partly because I like how it looks, but the little coils of pasta also help trap all that yummy sauce.
Any pasta will do, but make sure it is larger and more substantial. Macaroni, small shells, and any of the mini pastas will likely be too small and will overcook in the sauce.
Penne, bowties, fusilli, and even rigatoni will work well in this baked pasta recipe.
How To Make Creamy Pasta with Ricotta and Tomatoes
- Boil your pasta in salted water. Drain the pasta when it is still quite al dente. Rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process and to keep it from sticking. Don’t worry; it’ll cook more in the sauce.
- To make the sauce, you’re essentially making a bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the onions until they’re translucent. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer.
- With a whisk, whisk in the flour into the buttery onion mixture. Whisk well to combine and cook this flour mixture over low heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk into the flour mixture while whisking. Once all the milk is in, continue whisking over medium heat until it thickens and starts to bubble.
- Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella and ricotta cheese. Stir well to combine.
- Season the cheese sauce with salt and pepper, add the parsley, and then pour it over the noodles. Mix well, and then gently fold in the diced tomatoes.
- Pour the mixture into a casserole pan, top with parmesan cheese, and bake until bubbly and golden brown on top. Garnish with parsley and serve!
Chef Jenn’s Tips For This Tomato and Ricotta Pasta Bake
- Don’t overcook the pasta! It’s extremely important to drain and cool the pasta while it is still quite al dente. Look at the package cooking instructions, then chop a minute or two off the suggested cooking time. Test it and drain it early if it is still quite firm.
- Fresh tomatoes are best, but well-drained diced canned tomatoes will also work in a pinch.
- Add some fresh basil to add even more flavor to this tomato ricotta pasta dish.
- Ricotta is the star of this dish – look for creamy whole milk ricotta for the best results.
- Mozzarella adds more cheesy goodness to this dish, but you could use any mild melting cheese like Havarti, gouda, Monterey jack, or even mild white cheddar.
- Bake these in cute individual-size ramekins for even more appeal.
What To Serve With Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Tomatoes
I love serving this baked pasta with cheese sauce dish as the main event. A great salad pairs perfectly with it, as does some garlic bread if you’ve got carb lovers at your table. If you really want to dress things up, check out this recipes for baked chicken leg quarters which would go nicely with this dish. Or, revisit the creamy theme with ground chicken Salisbury Steak.
Or, let this dish be the star of the show and serve simple cut-up veggies with it – you don’t want to overwhelm the delicate flavors of tomato and ricotta in this baked pasta recipe.
Is This Pasta with Tomatoes and Ricotta Freezer Friendly?
Yes! A big yes!
Pasta tends to soften up through the freezing, thawing, and heating process. But if you don’t mind that, then this dish freezes really well.
Chill it as quickly as possible after baking – or better yet, freeze it before baking. Then, package the cooled mixture in a freezer-safe container or plastic bag for up to three months.
Reheat the already baked cheesy pasta with tomatoes in the microwave.
If you froze it before baking, thaw it and bake it in a casserole dish until hot and bubbly, as per the recipe instructions.
Yes! It does – especially if you use the whipped creamy ricotta. Now’s the time to splurge on the good stuff. Look for creamy, smooth, extra smooth, fine… all words that describe the ricotta which can otherwise be grainy in texture.
Yes, it is totally vegetarian. It has butter and cheese in it, but no other animal products.
I have not tested it with any non-dairy products so I cannot guarantee that it’ll turn out.
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Step By Step Process
Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Tomatoes
- 9 x 13 Pyrex dish or casserole
- Individual-size ramekins are also a good choice
- 12 ounces dried pasta
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 cups milk warmed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
- 1/4 tsp white or black pepper
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 2 cups tomatoes seeded and diced
- 2 tbsp parsley chopped
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese shredded
- Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until very al dente. Drain and chill under cold running water.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan and sautee the diced onion util they're translucent. About 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the flour. Use a whisk to blend it into the onion-butter mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the warmed milk to the flour mixture in a slow stream, whisking as you go. Once the milk is all whisked in, turn the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Be patient! Milk will scald so go slowly.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses, salt, pepper, cayenne, and parsley. Mix well.
- Mix the hot sauce with the pasta, then gently fold in the tomatoes. Add the mixture to a casserole dish, top with Parmesan cheese, and bake for about 20 minutes at 375-F. Enjoy!
A Note on Nutritional Information
Nutritional information for this recipe is provided as a courtesy and is calculated based on available online ingredient information. It is only an approximate value. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.