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Cheesy Pasta Bake in a red crock with two forks

Cheesy Pasta Bake with Tomatoes and Havarti

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This Cheesy Pasta Bake with Tomatoes and Havarti is a perennial favorite at our house! Family-friendly and an easy, delicious entree!

The tasty penne pasta recipe is mixed with gooey cheese, tomatoes, black olives plus basil, and red pepper flakes for an out of the ordinary meatless entree.

Cheesy Pasta Bake in red crocks

Cheesy Pasta Bake with Tomatoes and Havarti

I recall the first time I made this Baked Penne Pasta Recipe almost two decades ago. Bill came home from work, inquiring about dinner as is his routine. When I shared the name of this pasta dish, he grew quiet before asking, “Are you serving me fish???”

His culinary vocabulary grew by two new words that day. Penne is a tubular type of pasta. Havarti is a creamy Danish cheese. Neither are fish. Lesson completed. But soon this became one of those pasta dishes that is a regular on our menu. This gooey upscale mac and cheese is delicious, comforting, and adored by the whole family.

Overhead view of Pasta Bake with Tomatoes and Havarti in white casserole dish

Easy Pasta Recipe

Kraft Deluxe or my Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta are the sorts of pasta dishes Katie adores. But this spicy penne pasta recipe quickly became a family favorite, especially with the pasta-loving daughter. She often requests this “spicy mac and cheese” for her birthday dinner and it makes the rounds every Lent when we need a vegetarian pasta recipe. Easy Pasta Recipes are a favorite of the cook, too!

How to Make a Pasta Bake

There’s a simple formula to make easy pasta dishes like penne pasta recipes.

First, make a flavorful sauce. This spicy pasta sauce is made of tomatoes, onions,  garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, and chicken broth. Easy to find ingredients, that combine to make a tasty sauce.

Next, cook the pasta properly. Bring the water to a full boil, then add a good tablespoon or more or so of salt. The water should be briny like seawater for the best tasting pasta.

Also, use a large pan with enough water to cover the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente or to the tooth, meaning it is a minute or two undercooked so as not to get mushy when baked in the oven. Most pasta boxes give you the timing for cooking pasta al dente.

Make sure the water is boiling continuously. Also, stir occasionally so the pasta does not clump together. Drain and mix with the pasta sauce.

Finally, mix in the other ingredients, like cheese, olives, peppers, mushrooms, depending on the recipe. This is where there is an opportunity to tweak your cheesy pasta bake. Mozzarella can replace the Havarti. Black olives can be omitted if your family does not approve.  Top with real Parmesan cheese if desired and bake as directed.

Overhead view of cheesy pasta bake

How do you store a pasta casserole?

First, make sure it doe not sit out at room temperature longer than 2 hours or you could risk getting a foodborne illness from the leftovers. Once it’s cooled, either cover the casserole well with plastic wrap or move the pasta into an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 3 days.

Can you freeze baked pasta?

Yes, pasta with sauce can be frozen, but from experience, the pasta can get a little softer as it is reheated. Make sure your pasta has cooled, then cover well with plastic wrap then foil or place in an airtight container. Store in the freezer up to 2 weeks.  To serve, reheat in the oven in an oven-safe dish.

More Meatless Meals You Might Enjoy:

This recipe was first shared in March 2014. Photos and text were updated in 2020.

Cheesy Pasta Bake in red crocks

Cheesy Pasta Bake with Tomatoes and Havarti

A gooey, upscale mac and cheese with penne pasta and havarti cheese!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Yield 6 servings


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 10 ounces Havarti cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • Fresh basil, chopped, for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Saute onion and garlic till onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir well. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Cook till liquid is reduced. Check for seasonings and add more pepper flakes and salt if needed.
  2. Cook pasta in well-salted water according to package instructions. Drain well and mix into tomato sauce. Add Havarti and toss till well combined. Pour into a large, greased baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then olives. Bake at 350º for about 20 minutes, till hot and bubbly. Sprinkle with basil if desired.


!Adapted from American Favorites by Betty Rosbottom

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 494Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 52mgSodium: 1019mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 7gSugar: 12gProtein: 21g


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55 comments on “Cheesy Pasta Bake with Tomatoes and Havarti”

  1. Giggle, giggle. Bill is a cutie pie!

    Havarti cheese is married to so many wonderful childhood memories. And continues to be a favorite treat….Your penne looks and sounds like a dish I’d sink my teeth into in any season =)

  2. I love pasta dishes and Havarti would be a new food for me to try:@)

  3. Amazing photos as always my friend! I really like the idea of serving this pasta dish in the individual casserole dishes! So cute!

  4. What a perfect meal! This is one to make for sure! I love vegetarian pasta dishes!!

  5. Love spicy dishes, especially if it involves pasta! Yum!! 🙂

  6. I have never thought of adding Havarti to a pasta dish. I bet it adds a nice creaminess!

  7. It’s so funny what we foodies take for granted that other people know!

  8. Liz!! love this penne pasta! This dish sounds fabulous and I can’t wait to try it. . and I love those cute little Le Creuset casserole dishes!!! WANT!

  9. Bill is a funny guy! I can see why this pasta is a family favorite! Havarti is one of those cheese I always snack on but never put in a dish. Clearly I need to change that.

  10. Hehehe. OK, harvarti totally DOES sound like a type of fish. But unlike fish, it is so ridiculously creamy and melty! Love your baby Le Creusets. I have them in purple and they make me so happy 🙂

  11. Liz, penne is actually my favorite pasta shape and I’d love to prepare it more if it weren’t for my spaghetti-noodle-only Bill. Geesh! Love the spicy bite to this too. Havarti is always such a great creamy addition! Hope Bill is recovering nicely!

  12. Looks gorgeous! And I love your cookware!

  13. Oh yum! This looks mouthwatering! Looks like I just found a great dish for this friday…thanks, Liz!

  14. That is so cute about Bill, at least he loves this dish 🙂 I love a good spicy pasta and the havarti and black olives sounds fantastic in here! This looks super tasty especially in the petite casserole bowls:)

  15. That’s funny about the “lesson” 🙂 My dad would be happy to learn that lesson if it meant eating this dish!

  16. I love the addition of black olives! This looks yummy, yummy!

  17. I have a Hubby who’s no fish lover too, but he does have a great culinary vocabulary, in fact, he’s usually the one in the kitchen making dinner! This dish sounds delicious, and with a little less spice, could certainly find a regular place on my family’s menu! HUGS

  18. Ah I love Havarti. It is the cheese we use on our sandwiches. Why have I not thought of using it with a pasta? Thank you for the inspiration!

  19. What a comforting pasta dish! I use havati for sandwich sometimes but haven’t used over pasta. Looks so yummy~~~!

  20. Havarti goes great in a spicy dish, Liz! Perfect meatless meal!

  21. Lizzy,
    Pasta is always welcome in my house and Havarti is delicious too. Great dish for Lent. I hadn’t gone for ashes on Ash Wednesday in forever but this year I went with a coworker. No lightening bolts…I was surprised.

  22. I make a similar dish, but I don’t use havarti. I use to eat havarti all of the time, but haven’t had it in quite a while. I need to pick some up so I can make this dish!! Thanks for sharing this Liz!

  23. I love havarti cheese! I would love these – and I actually have the exact same red little baking dishes. They’re so great!! Pinning this to make soon 🙂

  24. Can not not like this dish…simple, delicious and…Italian! 🙂 ela

  25. That story cracked me up, Liz! We’ve had a few like that in my house as well. 🙂 Your spicy penne looks delicious! I can see why it’s a family favorite.

  26. Yummy! Love the red cast iron pots too!

  27. I haven’t had havarti in so long! Now I’m craving!

  28. Bill must be learning things everyday. I love penne pasta and this sauce looks fantastic. I love how it has olives in it xx

  29. Gorgeous colour and flavour, Liz. This is my kind of pasta.

  30. Sounds exactly like a conversation I would have with my husband. I tried to explain cardamom to him one day and he just shook his head and said I was talking way over him. Too funny.

  31. Definitely what I imagine to be a delicious penne, awesome photos 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

  32. My daughter is a big time pasta lover too and I cannot wait to try this lovely recipe for her!!Thankyou Liz 🙂

  33. I love spicy pasta dishes and this looks like it would easily become a new favorite!

  34. That is a funny story! I can definitely see the relation to Halibut and Havarti, and before I ventured into the world of fish and cheese could have asked the same question.

    Great styling as usual!

  35. Can I have one of those little crocks for lunch? Because that would really make my day. Looks delicious!

  36. I am all about spicy pasta! Loving this!

  37. Oh I miss havarti cheese, for some reason I can’t find it here in the UK.

  38. Definitely comfort food with a capital C for me. Everything you make is so visually appealing and this is no exception.

  39. Penne is my favorite pasta and I love Havarti. Match made in heaven!!!

  40. Liz, everything you make is so tempting. This is another winner!

  41. This looks great! I could see Morgan coming to the same conclusion–he’s always suspicious that I might sneak fish into his dinner!

  42. Absolutely cute and tasty pasta dish, four seasons; perfect individual servings as well ! Thank you so much !

  43. I do love pasta, and I particularly love baked pasta. This version looks and sounds splendid – not too overwhelming flavour profile (I often want to put too many ingredients which isn’t always the best thing to do!) yet hearthy and delicious. Well done, Liz!

  44. I’ve never tried havarti cheese, I like the sound of it in this pasta bake. If I can’t get hold of it, what other cheese could I use?

  45. I’m cracking up – your husband sounds like a character, Liz. It reminds me of us at a farmer’s market fruit stand in Asti, Italy asking for ‘pesce’ (which we thought meant ‘peach’) and the bewildered look on the man looking back at us. ‘Pesce’ means ‘fish’, ‘pesca’ means ‘peach’, lol!

    Anyway, this pasta dish looks incredible! We love a good pasta bake, but I’ve never made one with havarti. So excited to try this!

  46. We love pasta and Havarti so this is a win, win! It really looks delicious, and funny story with your hubby! They sound pretty much the same. 🙂 Great recipe!

  47. Your hubby sounds a lot like mine, haha! I’m glad there’s no fish in this dish. Baked pasta is so cozy and delicious!! I love all of the cheesiness!

  48. I love this pasta! It comes together so easily with things I always have on hand and the family is always happy to see it. A winner!

  49. I love pasta dishes like this one. Sounds so delicious. Pasta is always the perfect comfort food.

  50. Wow, this would be a big hit at my house. Looks so comforting and tasty! And your story about Bill cracked me up, as it reminds me of my own husband. My favorite was when I served Acorn squash and he later said how delicious the peaches were. Ha ha!

    🙂 ~Valentina

  51. We just love all of the ingredients in this simple dish, the cheesy goodness and all! It’s pretty too, I can see why it’s a family favourite.

  52. Harvati is not a cheese that we use often but wow it sounds fabulous in this pasta bake. Today was cool and rainy and perfect for a bowl of delicious comfort food.

  53. Easy and tasty – how can you go wrong. A wonderful bowl of comfort food.

  54. Mmmmm I think I always nibble on havarti, but have never cooked with it. How silly is that?!! A wonderful dish for the whole family!

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