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Budget Pasta Bake- An Easy and Cheap Recipe!

When our daughter Allison was born, we were on a tight budget. For a whole year, I fed our family for $37.00 a week. It was super hard, but through the grace of God we managed to do it.

I relied a lot on really cheap meals, like pasta, rice, and beans. Meals that had a ton of ingredients were definitely out, so I tried to make things as simple as possible.

Since pasta is a family favorite here, that was a definite staple every week. And I tried to mix things up by cooking it in different ways- including baking it.

Pasta bake in a bowl with text "Budget friendly pasta bake"

This Budget Pasta Bake has only 3 ingredients. And although it’s super simple, it makes a ton and will keep you full. It’s an easy weeknight meal you can add next week to your meal plan!

Scroll to the bottom to get to the recipe card, or keep reading to see what else you can add!

How cheap is this recipe?

This is definitely one of the top budget meals. It’s made with cheap ingredients that you can find pretty much anywhere, with the most expensive ingredient being cheese.

Here’s a breakdown of what each item costs:

  • 16 ounce box of pasta: $1.00
  • 28 ounce jar of pasta sauce: $1.89
  • 16 ounce bag of shredded mozzarella: $3.79

Keep in mind that you won’t use the entire package of pasta OR cheese, so you can use that in other recipes.

With only the ingredients used, this recipe equals about $4.29, or $.85 per serving if you divide it into 5.

This, of course, will vary depending on where you live. But it’s a pretty good average!

A box of penne, a jar of marinara sauce, and a bag of shredded mozzarella


Pasta- I used penne pasta, but any kind will work

Pasta sauce

Mozzarella cheese


Like I said, I tried to make meals with very few ingredients. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it this way every time. Here are some things you can add:

  • Meat: Ground beef and ground turkey are good options
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Extra seasonings: Pasta sauce is seasoned but you can add more like basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.
  • Sauce: I used a simple jarred spaghetti sauce. You can use your favorite tomato sauce blend or meat sauce. Or if you want to kick things up a bit, maybe try Alfredo sauce instead!

How to make

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

A pot of boiling water with penne

Boil water in a large pot, then add the pasta. Reduce heat and cook until the pasta is tender.

An 8x8 casserole dish with cooked pasta and marinara sauce mixed together

Drain pasta and add to an 8×8 casserole dish that’s greased with cooking spray. Pour the marinara sauce on top and combine.

A casserole dish with baked pasta

Top with shredded cheese and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

Divide and serve with your favorite sides.

Baked pasta in a bowl

How to store

Store any leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge. It’ll stay fresh 3-5 days.

The next day, you can reheat in the microwave or even in your oven, whichever works better for you.

What to serve with this

I typically serve pasta dishes with a frozen vegetable side! Usually frozen broccoli. I’ll also serve it with a simple side salad and garlic bread.

Zucchini and mushroom spaghetti

More easy pasta recipes

The following are relatively healthy recipes that the whole family will enjoy! These are tried-and-true meals I make as often as possible.

Budget Pasta Bake

Budget Pasta Bake

Yield: 5 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Need a super cheap recipe to get you through a few days? This Budget Pasta Bake makes a ton and only has 3 ingredients!


  • 12 ounces penne, uncooked
  • 28-ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Boil water in a large pot, then add the pasta. Reduce heat and cook until the pasta is tender.
    3. Drain pasta and add to an 8x8 casserole dish. Pour the marinara sauce on top and combine.
    4. Top with shredded cheese and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese has fully melted.
    5. Divide and serve with your favorite sides.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 1043mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 5gSugar: 10gProtein: 15g

terri d

Sunday 14th of January 2024

Hi i'm Italian and it really is better to spend the money to make your own (gravy) sauce. You get way more sauce than from the jar (it;s really not expenive. you can break down and freeze the sauces for later use!

1 large can of contadina (or any that is on sale) tomato sauce. a medium can of tomato paste

after yo open the large can and put contents in a deep pan. you add in tomato paste. stir around and then clean out both cans by using water (you dont want the sauce to be real thick or soupy - so add the water until the desired look.

add celery or stalks and carrots ( a few will do) and onions. (all this adds flavor) the you can add parlsey flakes. cook over low heat, with a top on the pan. stir occassionally so it doesn't start to burn on the very bottom. it's very easy believe me. and better nutrionally too than jar sauce good luck! you can use for chicken parm, eggplant parm or even on pizza dough just add your own spices.

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