One-Pot Creamy French Pasta Bake Recipe

If you have a hankering for cheesy, flavorful comfort food, but don't feel like totally messing up your kitchen in the process, this recipe for one pot creamy French pasta bake may be exactly what you're looking for. Developed by nutritionist Jaime Bachtell-Shelbert of Wholly Nourished, this one pot wonder starts out on the stovetop and then finishes in the oven — all in the same pot — for a dish that delivers rich, creamy deliciousness in every single bite. Do we have your attention yet?

The prep work on this one pot creamy French pasta bake is also minimal, with only some quick chopping and grating necessary before you're ready to get to cooking. And with only a few simple steps involved from beginning to end, even kitchen novices can serve up a tasty meal that makes them feel like total professionals. This dish is also vegetarian-friendly — as long as you cook with vegetable broth — while still feeling filling and substantial. So if you're looking for a satisfying dish that can feed a crowd without resulting in a mountain of dirty dishes, look no further than this one pot creamy French pasta bake. Now, let's get into how you can prepare it.

Gather the ingredients to prepare this one pot creamy French pasta bake

For this one pot creamy French pasta bake recipe, a few good quality, fresh ingredients will really make the flavors pop in this comforting dish. Round up two sweet onions, mushrooms (Bachtell-Shelbert recommends either baby bellas or white mushrooms.), and fresh thyme from the produce section. If you only have dried thyme on hand, Bachtell-Shelbert says that it will work in a pinch, substituting 1 teaspoon of dried thyme for every tablespoon of fresh thyme. However, Bachtell-Shelbert notes that she favors fresh.

You'll also need extra-virgin olive oil, butter, sugar, chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you want to make the dish vegetarian), bay leaves, uncooked fusilli pasta, heavy cream or half and half, Gruyère cheese, and Parmesan cheese. If you can't find or don't like Gruyère, you can substitute fontina, or even Swiss.

Prep the ingredients

One of the great things about this one pot meal is that it doesn't take a lot of extensive prep work. In just a few minutes, while you preheat your oven to 400 F, you can have everything you need for the dish ready to go. 

First, slice your onions thinly into half moons, and set them aside. Then, clean your mushrooms and chop them roughly into bite-sized pieces. Remove your thyme leaves from the stems, discard the stems, and run your knife through the leaves a few times, and you're done chopping. Then, you're ready to start cooking.

Caramelize the onions

In a heavy stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, heat your butter and olive oil together. Once the butter is melted, add the sliced onions, and sprinkle the sugar evenly over them. Allow the onions to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they're a golden brown color. Be patient, since it can feel like it takes a while for them to caramelize. They'll get there eventually!

If you'd prefer to leave out the sugar, you can, but be aware that the process can take significantly longer if you do. Bachtell-Shelbert says, "You don't have to add sugar, because the onions will release their own sugar. Adding sugar speeds up the process, [though]. Otherwise, it can take 45 minutes or more to caramelize." Once your onions are deliciously brown and sweet, you're ready to move on to the next step.

Add the mushrooms and thyme to the pot, then the broth and bay leaves

Into the same pot along with the onions, toss in the chopped mushrooms and thyme. Stir everything together, keeping the heat on medium-low. It won't take the mushrooms long to begin to cook and become fragrant. After about three minutes, they should have cooked down a little bit and begun to brown.

At this point, add the broth and bay leaves to your pot, then bring everything up to a boil. By now, your kitchen will smell amazing, but there are still a few more steps before you can chow down.

Cook the pasta

Once your broth is boiling, it's time to add the dry pasta. Unlike most pasta preparations, where you boil the pasta separately from the sauce in salted water and then drain it, the pasta for this creamy French pasta bake cooks in the same pot as everything else, so that the flavors of the broth, onions, mushrooms, and herbs will infuse the pasta itself rather than just sitting on top. Stir the contents of the pot frequently so nothing starts to stick. 

This recipe also doesn't require any straining. As the pasta cooks, it will absorb most of the liquid around it. "There is very little liquid in this dish, so the noodles seem to soak up exactly what they need in the eight minutes of cooking," Bachtell-Shelbert says. "Mine turned out perfectly al dente."

Add the half and half, along with the shredded Gruyère

After about eight minutes, once your pasta has reached an al dente texture, it's time to add the creamy components of the dish. Remove your pot from the heat, then fish out and discard the bay leaves, since by this point they will have already added their flavor to the dish. Then, add in the cream or half and half, along with half of the shredded Gruyère. Stir everything around until the cheese is melted and the pasta is well coated in the thick, creamy sauce.

Bake the pasta in the oven

Once the Gruyère is well mixed into the pasta and melted, top off the rich pasta and mushroom dish with the remainder of the shredded Gruyère and Parmesan cheese. Then, it's time to pop the whole thing in the oven that's heated to 400 F, in order to blend the flavors just a little more and melt the cheese. It should only take about 15 minutes in the oven until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and absolutely perfect. At that point, you're ready to eat. Spoon portions of the delicious comfort food into bowls, garnish with a sprig of thyme, and enjoy!

One-Pot Creamy French Pasta Bake Recipe
4.9 from 26 ratings
This one pot creamy French pasta bake delivers rich, cheesy deliciousness in every single bite.
Prep Time
4
minutes
Cook Time
36
minutes
Servings
6
servings
creamy pasta on plate
Total time: 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups fusilli pasta
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Heat the extra-virgin olive oil and butter in a heavy stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat.
  3. Add in the onions and the sugar, and stir. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently while the onions caramelize.
  4. Add the mushrooms and thyme. Stir and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  5. Add in the broth and bay leaves, and bring to a boil.
  6. Add in the fusilli pasta, and boil for 8 minutes until al dente and the liquid is absorbed. Stir frequently.
  7. Add in the half and half and 1 cup of the Gruyère cheese. Stir until melted. Then, remove from heat.
  8. Top the pasta off with the remaining 1 cup of Gruyère and the Parmesan cheese.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until the top is melted and slightly browned.
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