Chicken Penne Casserole Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 35 min. Bake: 45 min.
This comforting chicken pasta casserole is a meal-in-one that contains protein-packed chicken, hearty penne pasta and tender vegetables layered with melty mozzarella cheese. If you prepare this casserole ahead of time, you can simply pop it in the oven when you’re ready to eat.

Updated: Apr. 25, 2024

Baked casseroles like chicken pasta casserole are the unsung heroes of weeknight dinners. The best chicken casserole recipes contain everything you need for a filling meal, all baked together in a single dish. And, if the dish can be made ahead of time, even better. This baked chicken penne casserole accomplishes all that and then some.

In this dish, chicken thighs take on the bold flavor of a homemade tomato sauce made with aromatic vegetables and Italian-inspired seasonings. The saucy chicken meets tender penne pasta and layers of mozzarella and Romano cheese for a hearty dish that’s full of flavor and color.

Ingredients for Chicken Pasta Casserole

  • Penne pasta: The tomato sauce slings to the ridges of penne pasta, ensuring you get saucy goodness in every bite.
  • Chicken thighs: Dark meat holds up better in baked dishes than chicken breasts, but you can substitute in boneless skinless chicken breasts if you prefer white meat.
  • Vegetables: Onion, green pepper and sweet red pepper add color and texture to this baked chicken penne dish. Fresh vegetables are best, but you can swap in a frozen pepper-and-onion blend if you need to cut down on prep time.
  • Seasonings: The combination of basil, oregano, parsley flakes, crushed red pepper flakes and garlic adds an Italian-inspired flavor profile to this casserole.
  • Tomato sauce: A tomato sauce comes together with undrained diced tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth. It’s easy to make and tastes better than jarred pasta sauce.
  • Cheese: Layers of mozzarella cheese and Romano cheese add a melty, ooey-gooey element to baked casseroles. If you don’t have Romano cheese, you can use Parmesan instead.


Step 1: Cook the pasta

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Editor’s Tip: When the pasta finishes cooking, drain the noodles but do not rinse them. Rinsing removes the starchy outer coating that helps the sauce cling to the pasta. If needed, you can toss the cooked noodles with a bit of olive oil or butter to keep them from sticking together.

Step 2: Brown the chicken

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chicken, onion, green pepper, red pepper, basil, oregano, parsley flakes, salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute until the chicken is no longer pink. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute longer.

Step 3: Blend the tomatoes

In a blender, pulse the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, covered, until blended.

Editor’s Tip: Blending the diced tomatoes makes the sauce smooth, but you can skip this step if you prefer a chunky tomato sauce.

Step 4: Simmer the chicken and sauce

Add the blended tomatoes to the chicken mixture. Stir in the broth, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat. Cover and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Step 5: Layer the casserole

Drain the pasta, and toss it with the chicken mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella and Romano cheeses. Repeat the layers.

Step 6: Bake the chicken pasta casserole

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Cover the baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes longer. If desired, garnish the casserole with parsley.

Recipe Variations

  • Change the pasta: Feel free to substitute another pasta shape, like spiral pasta, rigatoni or elbow macaroni.
  • Swap in provolone: To give the cheesy layer a sharper, more complex flavor, use shredded provolone instead of mozzarella.
  • Use a different protein: This baked chicken penne dish is pretty versatile, and it would taste great with ground beef or sausage.
  • Add vegetables: Mix in vegetables like spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, eggplant or zucchini. You can even make the casserole with all vegetables for a vegetarian pasta casserole.

Can you make chicken pasta casserole ahead of time?

To prepare this casserole ahead of time, assemble the dish but do not bake it. Cover the baking dish, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove the dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed, adjusting the cooking time as needed for the casserole to heat through.

You can also freeze unbaked chicken pasta casserole. Freeze the covered casserole for up to three months. To use the frozen casserole, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Then bake, covered, in a 350° oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

How to Store Chicken Pasta Casserole

Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Reheat the casserole in the microwave or a 350° oven until warmed through.

Chicken Pasta Casserole Tips

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Can you make chicken pasta casserole with rotisserie chicken?

If you have leftover or rotisserie chicken on hand, feel free to use it in this chicken pasta casserole recipe. You can replace 1 pound raw chicken with 2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked chicken. Add the cooked chicken to the sauce when you add the drained pasta.

Should you cook pasta before baking chicken penne baked pasta?

It’s best to cook the pasta before you bake this casserole. This recipe doesn’t contain enough liquid to cook the noodles while the casserole bakes, so the pasta would taste raw and hard. It’s also important not to overcook the pasta before adding it to the casserole, or it will have a mushy texture. Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.

Can you add raw chicken to a baked chicken penne casserole?

We recommend cooking chicken before adding it to baked casseroles. Raw or undercooked chicken can contain harmful bacteria, so browning the chicken beforehand ensures the chicken’s internal temperature will reach 165°. Plus, cooking the chicken and vegetables with the sauce helps to develop layers of flavor that add to this casserole’s incredible taste.

Watch how to Make Chicken Penne Casserole

Cheesy Chicken Pasta Casserole

Prep Time 35 min
Cook Time 45 min
Yield 4 servings.


  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • Minced fresh parsley, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chicken, onion, peppers and seasonings; saute until chicken is no longer pink. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  2. In a blender, pulse the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, covered, until blended. Add to chicken mixture. Stir in broth; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Drain pasta; toss with chicken mixture. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheeses. Repeat layers.
  4. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until heated through, 15-20 minutes longer. If desired, garnish with parsley.

Nutrition Facts

1-1/2 cups: 579 calories, 28g fat (12g saturated fat), 128mg cholesterol, 1357mg sodium, 36g carbohydrate (9g sugars, 4g fiber), 47g protein.

This is my family’s favorite every week or two and we never tire of it. I like that I can put it together and relax while it bakes. —Carmen Vanosch, Vernon, British Columbia