Vegan pasta bake made with a creamy cauliflower sauce, mushrooms, spinach, and a dairy-free cheesy topping. This healthy pasta bake is a hearty, nutritious, versatile, and delicious meat-free meal for the entire family!
Creamy Vegan Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Spinach
Next time you’re in the mood for something carby and comforting, ditch the traditional tomato-based baked vegan pasta for a creamy blended cauliflower one. The result is this cozy, comforting, and wonderfully nutritious vegan pasta bake. With your choice of pasta, veggies (I used spinach and mushrooms), and even dairy-free cheese, this vegan pasta casserole is super versatile and a simple family favorite that you’ll return to time and time again.
Turn to your pantry and crisper drawer to help decide which veggies to use each time and enjoy with regular or gluten-free pasta. In fact, keep reading below for some of my top recommendations of extra veggies, protein, and other add-ins. Either way, this budget-friendly, healthy pasta bake will be a hit. Plus, it stores and freezes well too!
It’s no secret that I love pasta dishes with extra nutrients packed into the sauce (no jar sauces here!). I’ve already shared recipes for a vegan alfredo sauce, spinach pasta sauce, and kale avocado sauce.
For this spinach mushroom pasta bake, I’m using a nut-free, low-carb cauliflower-based creamy sauce, perfect for boosting the nutrients in the dish (with vitamin C, K, B5, folate, potassium, etc.) and encouraging the entire family to eat more veggies.
The Healthy Pasta Bake Ingredients
- Pasta: Use the pasta of your choice: wheat, whole wheat, or gluten-free.
- Vegetable broth: Regular or reduced-sodium would work.
- Aromatics: I used fresh garlic cloves and onion and garlic powder.
- Coconut milk: Canned coconut milk will help make this vegan pasta bake super creamy. Alternatively, other plant-based milk will work (i.e., soy, oat, almond, etc.) but won’t be as creamy.
- Seasonings: This mushroom pasta bake uses a simple combination of Italian seasoning (or herbs de Provence), red pepper flakes (adjust the amount to taste), and salt and pepper.
- Vegetables: I used cauliflower (for the sauce), spinach, and mushrooms. However, the veggies are super versatile. Keep reading below for more recommendations.
- Oil: Use any neutral cooking oil. i.e., olive oil, avocado oil, etc.
- Vegan cheese: I used a batch of my 5-minute vegan cheese sauce, but you can use any melty cheese like vegan mozzarella, cheddar, or a combination.
- Protein: It’s easy to boost the protein in this baked vegan pasta with the addition of chickpeas, beans, marinated tofu or chickpea tofu, or a meat-free alternative like chopped vegan sausage, chick’n chunks, etc.
- Nutritional yeast: For extra cheesy flavor throughout the dish, add nutritional yeast to the creamy cauliflower pasta sauce.
- Dijon mustard: A small amount will add depth to the sauce.
- Smoked paprika: Add a pinch to add depth to the creamy cauliflower sauce.
- Vegetables: There are plenty to choose from, including, but not limited to: Zucchini (sautéed or roasted), green peas (fresh or frozen), bell pepper (finely diced and cooked), broccoli (bite-sized florets, blanched), asparagus (blanched), tomatoes (cherry tomatoes or diced larger tomatoes), sweet potato (cubed and roasted), butternut squash/ pumpkin (cubed and roasted).
- Fresh herbs: Fresh basil or parsley can be used to garnish the veggie pasta bake for extra flavor.
- Parmesan: Sprinkle some vegan Parmesan cheese over the mushroom pasta bake when serving.
- Breadcrumbs: For a crunchy topping, sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the vegetarian pasta bake before baking.
For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
How to Make A Vegan Pasta Bake?
- First, prepare the vegetables. Separate the cauliflower into bite-sized florets and slice the mushrooms into even-sized pieces.
- Then, boil the cauliflower in a saucepan over medium-high heat until fork-tender (about 12-15 minutes) then discard the water.
- Meanwhile, in a separate pan, cook the pasta according to the package instructions, minus 1-2 minutes.
- Transfer the drained cauliflower to a blender or food processor with the vegetable broth, garlic, coconut milk, aromatics, and seasonings. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Stop and scrape down the sides of the machine as needed.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the mushrooms and sauté for several minutes to cook off the liquid and allow them to lightly brown. Then, add the spinach and stir until it wilts.
- Transfer everything (the pasta, sauce, and veggies) into a large bowl or directly into a greased baking dish (mine is 13×9-inches/33x23cm) and mix well to combine.
- Pour the vegan cheese sauce over the top, or use shredded cheese. Transfer to the oven and bake at 400F/200C for about 20 minutes until heated through and bubbly. Then enjoy!
How to Store?
Make ahead: You can pre-cook the cauliflower and pasta (drain and rinse it) either a day in advance or the morning of to cut down on prep time.
Store: Allow it to cool, cover with plastic wrap, and store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Freeze: I like to separate the cooked and cooled veggie pasta bake into a freezer-safe, airtight container or Ziplock bags and freeze for 2-3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Note that pasta can become softer and almost mushy upon thawing, so only freeze if you don’t mind the textural differences.
Reheat: Either in the microwave or the oven (350F/175C for 15-20 minutes, or until warmed through) works best. Add a few splashes of vegetable stock or dairy-free milk while reheating to bring back a more saucy consistency.
Enjoy this hearty vegan pasta casserole either alone or with a simple side such as:
- Bread: Either with a slice of a crusty loaf or baguette OR some garlic bread (or garlic naan). You could also serve simple bruschetta as an appetizer.
- Salad: Enjoy the healthy pasta bake with a simple side salad of leafy greens.
- Veggies: Double up on veggies with a side of boiled/steamed veggies of your choice (i.e., broccolini, green beans, etc.).
Could I substitute the cauliflower?
White beans are my other favorite way to make a creamy, nutrient-dense pasta sauce. Use canned or dry, cook until very soft, and then blend as I did with the cauliflower.
Can I use frozen cauliflower?
Yes, but you may need a little less plant-based milk, as frozen cauliflower naturally contains more liquid.
What pasta is best for a pasta bake?
While the choice is versatile, I recommend using a noodle variety with ridges to help pick up all the pasta sauce. I.e., rigatoni, riccioli, rotini, fusilli, farfalle, etc. Penne is fine, too!
Recipe Notes, Tips, and FAQs
- Adjust the texture: Chopping all the veggies finely will allow you to have all the flavors in a single bite. However, chop them chunkier if preferred.
- Adjust the sauce consistency: Adjust the amount of vegetable broth is added to the sauce. For a thicker sauce, use just 1 ½ cups. For a thinner one, add a splash or two of additional broth.
- Swap out the veggies: Experiment with what you have available for a versatile vegan pasta bake that will never become boring.
- Slightly undercook the pasta: Reduce the pasta cooking time by 1-2 minutes when boiling it, as it will continue to cook in the oven. That way, you avoid mushy pasta.
- For extra flavor: Make sure to cook the pasta in salted water.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes
- Pasta e Ceci (Chickpea pasta)
- Garlic butter pasta
- Roasted red pepper pasta
- Creamy vegan lasagna soup
- Pumpkin pasta bake
- Baked gnocchi with tomato sauce
- Vegan spinach and ‘ricotta’ cannelloni
If you try this creamy vegan pasta bake recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Vegan Pasta Bake Recipe
- 17 oz (500 g) pasta of choice e.g. gluten-free
- 12 oz of (340 g) mushrooms
- 5 oz of (140 g) spinach
- 1 small/medium-sized head of (500 g) cauliflower cut into florets
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups of (360-480 ml) vegetable broth (see notes)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut milk canned (see notes)
- 1-2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp dried Italian mixed herbs
- 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 batch of (200 g) vegan cheese sauce (or vegan cheese of choice)
- In a pot, cook the cauliflower florets in salted water until tender (about 15 minutes) then discard the water.
- In another pot, cook pasta according to the instructions on the packaging.
- Once the cauliflower is fork-tender, process it in a blender or food processor, together with the vegetable broth, garlic, coconut milk, spices, and salt + pepper. Blend until the mixture is smooth.
- Heat oil in a skillet and fry the mushrooms over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add spinach and fry for an additional minute. Turn off the heat.
- Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl, add the cauliflower sauce, mushrooms & spinach, and stir to combine.
- Pour everything into a greased baking dish (mine measures 13x9 inches / 33x23 cm).
- Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for about 20 minutes. Enjoy!
- If you want your pasta bake to be creamy (with a little bit of sauce) use 2 cups of vegetable broth, otherwise, use 1 1/2 cups.
- Instead of canned coconut milk, you can use any other plant-based milk or cream of choice (e.g. soy milk/cream, oat milk/cream, almond milk, etc.).
- You can also cook the pasta and cauliflower already in the morning and store it in the fridge until you start making this dish.
- Recipe serves 6. Nutrition facts are for one serving.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
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