Italian Noodle Casserole

4.9 from 9 votes
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This Italian Noodle Casserole is my take on an old-fashioned baked pasta recipe. Combine gluten free noodles and zucchini with a creamy Greek yogurt-based mixture, layer with meat sauce, and top with cheddar and Parmesan cheeses for a hearty meal.

A pan of Italian noodle casserole sits behind a white plate of casserole with a fork.

Why You’ll Love This Italian Noodle Casserole

My version of Italian casserole with ground beef is a modern version of a vintage classic. I add sauteed zucchini and swap in gluten free pasta so everyone can enjoy it. This is a satisfying and flavorful main. Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Packed with contrasting flavors. There are a lot of wonderful flavor contrasts going on in this Italian noodle casserole: tangy Greek yogurt, zesty tomato sauce, savory meat, and sharp, salty cheese.
  • Gluten-Free. This Italian pasta casserole is traditionally made with egg noodles, but I’ve adapted it to be gluten free by including gluten free penne. You can also use regular pasta if you wish, just make sure it’s a tube-shaped pasta so it holds the sauce well.
  • Great to make ahead. You can make this casserole a day in advance and it will hold up very well, making it a good choice for a busy weeknight dinner or gathering.
  • Family-Friendly. The flavors and textures – the creamy meat sauce is so good! – in this Italian pasta casserole make it a family favorite. You can see some of my adaption suggestions lower down to help you fit it to your own family’s tastes.

Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop, Oven
Dietary Info: Gluten-free
Skill Level: Easy

A fork is ready to dig into a portion of Itlian noodle casserole on a white plate.

Italian Pasta Casserole Ingredients

Here’s everything you’ll need to make Italian noodle casserole. The full ingredient amounts will be in the recipe card at the end of this post.

  • Pasta: Use a tube-shaped pasta like penne or ziti. I love Jovial brand gluten free penne in this recipe.
  • Ground Beef: You can substitute ground sausage if you like.
  • Onion: Use a yellow or red onion in this recipe
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Zucchini: Also try summer squash or yellow squash when it’s in season.
  • Garlic
  • Tomato Sauce: Pick up some tomato sauce at the store or use homemade sauce.
  • Italian Seasoning: Or use an equal combination of dried basil and oregano.
  • Greek Yogurt: Full-fat, low-fat, or non-fat Greek yogurt works fine.
  • Cream Cheese: Use block cream cheese rather than a tub of whipped cream cheese.
  • Cheddar Cheese: My preference is for sharp cheddar cheese, but you can choose which one you prefer.
  • Parmesan Cheese
A glass baking pan of cheese-topped Italian noodle casserole.

Italian Casserole Variations

I love playing around a bit with the ingredients in this Italian pasta casserole – it’s so easy to adapt to include more or different vegetables and it keeps well! Here are a few tips and variation suggestions to help you make this dish:

  • Try different cheese. Mozzarella cheese is practically required when you make an Italian-inspired dish. You can replace the shredded cheddar cheese with shredded mozzarella for an extra-melty touch.
  • Make with regular pasta. If you don’t need to keep gluten-free, you can easily use regular ziti or penne pasta. Tube-shaped pasta is ideal in this casserole because the meat sauce sneaks into all the nooks and crannies of the pasta, making it even more delectable.
  • Add other vegetables. As mentioned, you can use yellow or summer squash in place of the zucchini. Or add in sliced mushrooms, red bell peppers, or baby spinach in place of or in addition to the zucchini.
  • Go vegetarian. You can swap a vegetarian ground beef, like Beyond Beef, for the ground beef or simply omit the meat altogether to make a vegetarian version of Italian Noodle Casserole.
A plate of Italian noodle casserole with a fork on its righthand side is ready to eat.

FAQs

Can you prepare the casserole in advance?

Yes, you can make this Italian noodle casserole ahead of time and pop it in the oven right before dinner. I will make this up to 24 hours in advance, cover it tightly with foil, and keep it in the fridge until I’m ready to cook dinner. Note that if you bake the casserole from the fridge it will take a bit longer to cook.

Can you double it?

You can double this recipe and freeze the second casserole, although I don’t recommend freezing gluten free pasta. You could also make a batch with gluten free pasta and a batch with regular pasta to freeze at the same time – the filling ingredients remain the same.

A serving spoon lifts out a portion of Italian noodle casserole from a baking dish.

How to Store This Italian Casserole with Ground Beef

As mentioned, Italian pasta casserole keeps well, making it a nice lunch or quick dinner later in the week. Here’s how to store it:

  • Fridge – Place cooled leftover casserole in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer – I don’t recommend freezing Italian noodle casserole if you make it with gluten free noodles, because the noodles tend to get mushy when defrosted. However, if you make it with regular pasta, it freezes well. You can place leftover portions of casserole in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze them for up to 3 months. Or, tightly cover the casserole dish with plastic wrap, then foil, and freeze the entire casserole for up to 3 months. Defrost the Italian noodle casserole in the fridge before reheating it.
  • To Reheat – Reheat portions of noodle casserole on a microwave-safe dish or bowl in the microwave in 1-minute intervals until heated through and the cheese is melted. You may wish to add a little more tomato sauce before reheating it. To reheat the entire casserole, remove the plastic and foil and place the defrosted casserole in a 350°F oven until it’s heated through.
A white plate holds a big portion of Italian noodle casserole with more in the background and a glass of red wine to the right.

Make It A Meal

Italian noodle casserole needs a fresh salad to accompany it! Or you can add a simple side of steamed vegetables for a lighter touch. Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve this casserole:

A fork is ready to dig into a portion of Itlian noodle casserole on a white plate.
4.9 from 9 votes

Italian Noodle Casserole

This Italian Noodle Casserole is my take on an old-fashioned baked pasta recipe. Combine gluten free noodles and zucchini with a creamy Greek yogurt-based mixture, layer with meat sauce, and top with cheddar and Parmesan cheeses for a hearty meal.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces penne, ziti, or a similar tube-shaped pasta (I used gluten free)
  • 1 ⅓ pounds lean ground beef
  • Half medium onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini halved or quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1 clove garlic minced or crushed
  • two 15 oz. cans low sodium/no salt added tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, regular or light
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F and coat a 9×13 inch casserole dish or glass baking dish with oil or cooking spray.
  • Prepare pasta according to package directions, cooking slightly al dente.
  • Place a large skillet over medium heat, and add the ground beef, onion, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown the ground beef, breaking up while cooking, until nearly cooked through. Drain any excess grease.
  • Add the zucchini and garlic to the beef and saute for about 5 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce and Italian seasoning, and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • After the pasta is cooked and drained, return the pasta to the pot or a bowl and stir in the Greek yogurt and cream cheese until smooth. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared casserole or baking dish.
  • Top pasta with an even layer of the meat sauce mixture, the sprinkle with cheddar and parmesan cheese.
  • Bake at 450°F for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted and lightly browned.
Nutrition Facts
Italian Noodle Casserole
Amount Per Serving
Calories 436 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 8g40%
Cholesterol 95mg32%
Sodium 334mg14%
Potassium 571mg16%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 38g76%
Vitamin A 390IU8%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 275mg28%
Iron 3.3mg18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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30 Comments
  1. Pattijane

    On the description it says: Provolone, yogurt, cream cheese, cheddar, and parmesan make it ridiculously rich and creamy, while the tomato sauce gives it a sweet and refreshing flavor. I don’t see Provolone in the recipe ingredients. Should it be in there and how much? I am going to make this tonight!

  2. 5 stars
    I just finished breakfast, but my mouth is watering looking at this fabulous cheesy casserole! Perfect comfort food that’s needed on this COLD April day!

  3. Bev

    I have this in the oven now and my kitchen smells heavenly. The addition of zucchini is brilliant. I went traditional with ricotta cheese but otherwise live this recipe as is. Thank you! Love your blog.

  4. 5 stars
    I know what you mean about not being fond of casseroles. I kinda went through that phase once Mom wasn’t cooking for me anymore. But now? Oh yes, bring them on! This one is right up my alley, and Kevin will be so happy it is something other than Mexican flavors

  5. I like that, “classic meals call for classic wines”, so so true! This dish looks like the ultimate throwback meal, and I love that! It looks pretty tasty, too!

4.89 from 9 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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