Creamy Penne Pasta Bake with Zucchini

Vegan and non dairy creamy pasta bake with gluten free brown rice penne
A light and creamy pasta bake recipe for Spring.

Creamy Pasta Bake for Spring

Mac and cheese gets a makeover. Just in time for swimsuit shopping (also affectionately known around here as the annual Parade of Shame). It's time to start cooking light again, and give your body a break from all that white rice pasta, butter, and double cheese. It's time to kiss bacon good-bye. Hot weather is coming, Babycakes. The beach and poolside beckon. And I am not prepared. Are you?

I've been lax with my downward facing dogs (actually, I'm forbidden to do downward facing dogs these days, but that's another story). My lumbo-pelvic complex is cranky. My core is catnapping. And my biceps need curling. Or something like that. What it basically means is I've got some flab I need to banish. Remember that roll around my middle I call Doris? She's still here. She has not skedaddled. My usual winter weight gain of five hibernation pounds is eight this year.

I could blame those Raspberry Coconut-Almond Bars my husband keeps making (he who can eat cookies and brownies and still sport flat abs). I could blame fructan and fructose, and various unfriendly members of FODMAPs who may be the bottom line bloat culprit in my ongoing emulation of my halcyon pregnancy days (those of you with IBS symptoms despite going gluten-free might want to look into this fructose and polyol thing- it appears to have some merit).

But mostly I blame how much time I spend on the iMac. Sitting. Typing. Sitting some more. Social networking. The Internet is an amazing gift. But it is damn hard on the body. I'm vowing to get up and move more frequently. Shake my booty. Feel the burn. Or at least feel some heat.

So just in case you're in the same mood, too. I've made a lighter version of the classic baked mac and cheese.

I used gluten-free brown rice penne with rice bran for the pasta. Organic soy milk and Smart Balance vegan "butter" for the cream sauce. Zucchini and garlic and chives for a flavor boost. And it was fab. Light. Creamy.

Perfect for Spring.

Karina Allrich in Allergic Living Magazine Spring 2010
Allergic Living magazine comes to the US. With a feature by yours truly.

And how about some fun news?

Allergic Living magazine is now publishing a US edition. Lucky us! And I am delighted to announce I am a small part of it. The American launch issue is chock full of gluten-free goodness- including my article, Perfect Harmony (featuring three of my gluten-free, dairy-free recipes, including a brand new Carrot Cake recipe with orange frosting, and a new Orange Scented Soda Bread to accompany a light, vegan potato soup), Sloane Miller's Guide to Smart, Safe Dining, kitchen tips from Ming Tsai and Susur Lee, Gluten-Free Girl's Plane Lucky on flying gluten-free, beautiful Spring recipes from Chef Simon Clarke, the latest g-free news from celiac expert Shelly Case, and much more. Subscribe with an exclusive promo code for Gluten-free Goddess readers and save with the promo code: org2100GFG

How gluten-free cool is that?

Vegan pasta bake with zucchini
A gluten-free dairy-free egg-free pasta bake with zucchini, and chives.

Creamy Gluten-Free Penne Pasta Bake Recipe with Zucchini

Recipe posted April 2011.

This fresh as a breeze Spring pasta bake is light and easy, vegan and gluten-free. The creamy non-dairy sauce is kid-friendly and mild. If your kids like a deeper, orange colored sauce, add half a teaspoon of paprika to the sauce and stir until blended.


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil the bottom of a large gratin dish or casserole and set aside.


12 ounces gluten-free brown rice penne pasta
1 medium zucchini
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of dried dill or Italian herbs, to taste

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegan butter such as Smart Balance
4 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 1/2 cups organic soy milk* see notes
1/4 cup gluten-free nutritional yeast* see notes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, optional

For the topping:

Chopped fresh chives


Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and partially cook the brown rice penne, till just this side of al dente. You don't want to cook it completely, or you'll end up with mushy pasta, after it bakes.

Meanwhile wash, trim, and slice the zucchini into half moons. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the zucchini and minced garlic, season with sea salt, ground pepper, and a dash or two of dried dill or Italian herbs. Stir to coat, and quickly stir-fry, just until the zucchini is tender-crisp. Don't overcook it. It will continue to cook in the oven.

Start making the creamy pasta sauce. Heat the olive in a medium saucepan and add the vegan butter. When the "butter" melts, add in the brown rice flour and stir with a whisk to make a paste. Heat it through, stirring and cooking the paste for a minute. Slowly add in the soy milk (or your milk of choice) and whisk the milk with the paste to combine. Add in the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, nutmeg, rice vinegar and mustard (if using). Stir the sauce until it thickens and turn down the heat. If it gets too thick you can thin it with a dash of white wine, or more soy milk.

When the pasta is done, drain it well, and drizzle it with a touch of good olive oil. Pour the cooked penne into a large gratin dish or casserole. Add in the zucchini. Pour the sauce in and gently, very gently, combine the penne, zucchini, and sauce until the penne is coated. Sprinkle the top with fresh snipped chives.

Cover the dish with foil. Bake the penne in the center of a preheated oven for 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.

Cook time: 35 min

Yield: Serves 6

Recipe Source:

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Gluten free zucchini pasta bake
A lovely and light spring pasta, vegan and gluten-free.

Recipe Notes:

I used organic soy milk in this sauce- and it helps make the sauce rich and creamy. If you cannot tolerate soy, try unsweetened, clean tasting hemp milk, almond milk, or light coconut milk (like So Delicious).

If you do not care for nutritional yeast, omit it and add one to two tablespoons creamy, mild raw almond butter or raw cashew butter. (Roasted will be too strong.)

Add 1/4 cup dry white wine to the sauce for a more "grown-up" flavor.
This creamy vegan sauce is also wonderful spooned over hot cooked pasta (if you don't have the time or inclination to bake it), or poured on steamed vegetables, even brown rice.

xox Karina


Kalyn said...

Great news about the feature in Allergy Living! And the recipe looks great, but most of all right now I could really use a bunch of daffodils like that on my table!

Allie said...

THANK YOU. I will be trying this soon-- so craving my mom's baked mac n cheese :( wheat and dairy are my kryptonite.
I really appreciate you, and all other GF cooks/bakers who do all the adapting and testing that I will never have time for... xoxoxo

hmariek said...

Hey, we all got a little junk in the trunk! I could definitely lighten up my meals! Smart balance Light is one of my favorites. This sounds super lovely :)

Helene said...

I was thinking today that I have to go back to hot yoga. Need to be in better shape for the summer. And congrats for being in the magazine!

moonwatcher said...

Hi Karina,

this looks yummy and you can bet I will be trying out a version of it--I could just smell the zucchini sauteing. . .and I have chives coming up. Like Kalyn, I admire your daffodils as mine are not quite open yet! And congrats on the feature--that is wonderful.



Shawn said...

This looks delicious. I have a question for you about the soymilk you use though. I haven't found a brand yet that I liked for cooking with. All those we've tried seem to impart a noticeable sweet flavor that doesn't meld well with the savory foods we're trying to make. I switched to Trader Joe's plain rice drink for cooking because it doesn't leave that soymilk aftertaste. But it's not as creamy. Have you run into this problem? Any suggestions?

Donna said...

Karina, thank you for all the wonderful recipes. I also teach healthy cooking based on the Blood Type Diet and I am a Certified Blood Type Diet Practitioner. I have a newsletter and blog but so many people today have a gluten problem that your approach on the gluten free is very refreshing and I am learning much more information to help others. Although I am not a vegan, I do stick very close to a vegetarian diet myself. I have used some of your recipes in my private classes and always add your blog site and name as the author and creator and encourage my students to follow your blogs for more information. I hope you will allow me to share your recipes with your full credit as author and give your blog address. There are so many recipes and I don't want to infringe on your hard work of creating them without your approval. I also love using the nutritional yeast for its cheesy taste but I use turmeric for the yellowish color and marvelous health benefits it has. (It makes a great broccoli cheese soup without the cheese). Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wonderful recipes and I hope you will continue to let me share your recipes with those struggling to live a somewhat altered new live style without giving up so many of the foods they love. Chef Donna

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks everyone- sending you virtual daffodils. xox

As for soy milk- I used the unsweetened, original Classic Organic Soy Dream with no carageenan. It works beautifully in this sauce.

I do agree that some soy milks can be slightly sweet. How about adding a dash of tartness to your savory recipes with a squeeze of lime or lemon? Or add a touch spicy heat?


Anonymous said...

I crave creamy light dishes and this seems perfect. Cant wait to make it.

Rita said...

I am getting my veggie garden ready! Can't wait to make this with my zucchinis.

I am on Weight Watchers and love it. I am so happy to have enough energy after going GF to even participate in WW! I am having so much fun cooking and trying new GF recipes!

Anonymous said...

I made this last night and it turned out really great! It was my first time cooking with nutritional yeast. I haven't had a cream sauce in probably a year, so I'm really excited that I can add this to my diet!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this recipe, Karina -- I just made it tonight, and it was so nice to have something creamy on pasta again! I used coconut milk and omitted the yeast (didn't add nut butters, as I'm avoiding nuts at the moment), but it was plenty thick with the coconut milk and flour. I omitted the garlic (allergy) and substituted some chopped shallots instead.


The InTolerant Chef said...

What a lovely looking magazine spread, the photo of the cake is beautiful!

Monica I. said...

When you say "medium" zucchini - what does that mean to you? Since mine are always monsters, (I still have one from last season that we should have weighed) and I'm pretty sure it was 18" long and 6" thick.

Kelly said...

thanks so much for your innovative and fun recipes! i have just gone gluten-free, and i am loving your spirit and your culinary talents! i've been enjoying so many of your recipes! also, i've had several people mention your site when i tell them i'm've definitely established a fan network! can't wait to try this new recipe!

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