Primal Baked Pasta

Baked Pasta 2All the comfort and flavor of baked pasta, without the carbs or gooey cheese? Sign me up! This recipe for Primal baked “pasta” uses a favorite noodle substitute, celery root, as a stand-in for the texture of penne pasta. Italian sausage, mushrooms and marinara fill out the dish, along with a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.

The marinara sauce is homemade and it’s a keeper, for its perfect simplicity and rich flavor. It’s a sauce that can be used for all your pasta-like dishes, from zucchini noodles to spaghetti squash.

This recipe uses canned, whole tomatoes because they have a more consistently intense flavor than fresh tomatoes do as the seasons change. Canned whole tomatoes also tend to taste better than diced/chopped or pureed canned tomatoes. Unfortunately, they’re harder to find in BPA-free packaging, but not impossible. If you can’t find BPA-free whole tomatoes, then use a good brand of BPA-free chopped tomatoes instead.

Once BPA is out of the picture, canned tomatoes have a lot going for them. Like other brightly colored vegetables, tomatoes are full of carotenoids and lycopene, among other nutrients. One of the best sources of lycopene is cooked tomatoes with fat, which exactly describes this buttery sauce.

Like most baked pasta recipes, this one tastes even better a few hours, or a day, after it’s made. But don’t let that stop you from digging in right away. After smelling the heavenly combination of onions, garlic, tomatoes and Italian sausage in the oven, it’s hard to resist.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 1.5 hours


  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (800 g)
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus 1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, divided
  • 4 large basil leaves plus 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped basil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (2.5 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (2.5 ml)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds celery root (2 small or 1 large) (570 g)
  • 10 ounces Italian sausage, raw or fully cooked (284 g)
  • 8 ounces white or brown mushrooms, sliced (230 g)
  • 1/4 cup whole cream (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (22 g)


Preheat oven to 425 °F/218 °C.

Pour the tomatoes into a 13×9 or similarly sized baking dish, and crush and break up the tomatoes really well with your hands. Add the onion, garlic, 1/4 cup/60 g butter, 4 basil leaves, oregano and salt. Mix well to combine. Roast in the oven, mixing once or twice, for 35 minutes, until thick.

While the sauce roasts, use a paring knife to trim the skin off the celery root. Cut the celery root into sheets 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Trimming the sides to make perfect squares or rectangles before you cut the sheets into “noodles” is optional. (A perfect shape doesn’t matter all that much, since everything will be baked together) Cut the sheets into “noodles” that are about 3/8” wide (9.5 mm) (like a thin French fry) then cut the noodle pieces in half so they’re about the size of penne pasta.

Toss the celery root pieces into a pot of boiling water and cook just until fork tender, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

If the sausage is pre-cooked, then cut it into slices. If the sausage is raw, it can be cut into slices or pulled out of the casings so it’s loose. Either way, cook the sausage in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until nicely browned (and raw sausage should be cooked through).

Remove the sausage from the skillet and add the mushrooms. If more fat is needed, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter with the mushrooms. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until the mushrooms are nicely browned and the moisture has evaporated.

In a large bowl, mix together the roasted tomato sauce, celery root, sausage, mushrooms, 1/4 cup/60 g chopped basil, and whole cream. Mix well to combine and add salt to taste.

Spread the mixture out in a 2-quart/2 liter baking dish. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.

Bake at 425 °F/218 °C, uncovered, for 25 minutes. To crisp up the top a little, put under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes.

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33 thoughts on “Primal Baked Pasta”

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  1. I think (previously al-dente boiled) kohlrabi or jicama would be a more appropriate alternative for baked pasta than potatoes. Potatoes are unmistakable taste-wise, so they can’t fool our taste buds as pasta.

    1. The recipe does not use potatoes at all. The “pasta” is celery root.

      1. LOL. The “peeled tomatoes” above read as “potatoes” to me, haha. 😀
        Yeah, celery root works too.

  2. I have used celery root for my lasagna and OH BAY BAY it was good!!!! Just a hint of celery flavor if any.

    We had a good friend who taught us how to make lasagna years ago and she would not let us put onion in the sauce, she said it made it spaghetti so we never did and I like the flavor so much better without the onion.

    This was what I missed the most about getting rid of wheat, (rice noodles are NOT at all good enough for the real experience in my book) but the celery root “pasta” is so very much like the wheat pasta that my palate forgets that it’s not wheat. The bonus is that I can actually digest the celery root, unlike the wheat pasta which took a few days to get thru the digestion process. I thought it was the cheese but no, it was the wheat.

    Now that the “cold” weather is coming it’s good to have a reminder for this favorite in our house!

    1. I love to hear how you prepared and used the celery root for your lasagna if you have a minute! Would be terrific if anything like this baked “pasta”.

      1. To prepare and use the root:
        slice the “ugly” part off the root
        Slice into even sheets – I tried for about 1/8 inch thick
        cook like pasta in boiling water until (al dente) your fork can go though the sheets but they are not totally soft
        drain, cool on a rack
        I make the sauce out of stewed tomatoes and tomato paste
        Season with garlic, oregano, salt and pepper (no onion – makes it taste like spaghetti which is fine but I like it w/o)
        I use good burger for the meat
        I use cottage cheese, medium cheddar cheese,and mozzarella cheese, cut the cheese into dice sized cubes and then start to layer the pan with “noodles”, cheese, cottage cheese, sauce. There are about 3 or 4 layers when I make it.
        Bake it about 350 until it’s done – it’s toasty on top and hot and melted in the middle – I don’t time it but probably about 35 minutes to an hour? if the top is getting too toasty before the middle is melty put some parchment paper over the top while it bakes.
        Give it a go, hope it turns out like mine.

  3. I loved your celery root lasagna, although with some modifications, so I’ll have to try this. 🙂 Question though. Whole cream… would coffee cream do? I have quite a bit, it was on sale. Or should it be whipping cream?

      1. Half and half, or 10 percent fat, I believe. Coffee cream is what the label calls it. Whipping cream is 36 percent fat so a big difference. We don’t have anything labelled whole cream where I live.

        1. Half and half will work, but the sauce just won’t be as rich-tasting. You could leave either one out and still be fine.

  4. Ok I just finished making that AWESOME slow baked primal chicken recipe, and so ready for this adventure. It sound great, honestly. Thanks, Mark.

    1. OK I made this two days ago, and it is AWESOME!! My husband is wolfing the rest of it down right now. I made it with sweet Italian sausage because I was trying to sell it to the kids, but next time I’m trying the spicy.

      1. ok I made it a second time, and I have some comments that might be helpful.

        First, an aside: This recipe should be selected as MOST FUN for it’s tactile feel–squishing those tomatoes, then later, squishing the butter! Wear an apron, don’t wear white…

        Second, this recipe, if broken down, wants you to BAKE, FRY, BOIL, then BAKE again. So I recommend:

        1) Double this recipe!

        2) Make some of it the day before (Yesterday I cut up the celery root, and also made the sausage/mushroom mixture. But you could do more). It’s quite a juggle to do it the way it is written. I’m using that baking time to clean up instead of all that multi-task cooking.

        3) “Toss the celery root pieces into a pot of boiling water”–uh, what boiling water? Set the water to boil when you first turn on the oven.

        Again, thank you for this recipe!

  5. I adore paleo food, because it is healthy and still yummy. So i decided to start paleo diet (this time i mean it). If you were to buy one book to give to a friend on Paleo, what would it be? please please recommend a good one 🙂 Thank you!

    1. I have a few different ones, The Whole 30 book is great. Really good for inspiration with just real food and fine tuning cooking skills.

    2. I’ve found Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo VERY useful. She has specific meal plans laid out for specific health concerns (following is obviously optional.), tons of recipes, even a few deserts. I’ve enjoyed it very much.

  6. I was curious about celeriac but this recipe enticed me enough to give it a try. This dish was scrumptious and I’m going to make my tomato sauce this way from now on. Dump, stir, bake, done.

  7. I hate celery – what’s the next best veggie to use for the “pasta”?

    1. It doesn’t really taste like celery, plus, it’s the root, not the stalks.

  8. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how good this was! I just made it tonight and we couldn’t stop eating it. I made it just like the recipe says, using Sweet Italian sausage. I’m in the mile high city, so I had to boil the “noodles” for 8 minutes to get them fork tender. Don’t leave out the cream! It makes it, well, creamy and rich. To the poster who doesn’t like celery, don’t worry, these “noodles” taste nothing like celery. (Be sure to use celery root, not actual celery. Celery root is a big roung ugly thing, the size of a grapefruit almost.) I’m going to try these “noodles” in my tuna casserole next. I’ve tried water chestnuts to replace noodles, but they weren’t substantial enough.

  9. Yum! I made two pans of this last night, one with homemade broccoli pesto, one with homegrown tomato sauce. Delicious! I also used plenty of shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Thanks for this versatile recipe that can accommodate lots of vegetables out of the garden.

  10. Best Celery Root Dish EVER!!! We loved it!!! Thank You!!! It is so worth the effort.

  11. Any suggestions what to substitute for celery root? I am so allergic to celery.

  12. I made this last night, sneaking in the celery root to see if my picky husband noticed. Only after dinner did he ask me what was in it. I told him celery root and asked him what he thought about the dish. He said, “It was actually – delicious. Really, really good.” Wow! It was my first time to try it too, and I totally agree. This one is a keeper.

  13. Where can I find Celery Root? I haven’t seen it in regular grocery stores.
    Is it in frozen section or fresh?

    1. It’s in the refrigerated vegetable section. Every store may not have it. I found it at Sprouts (in McKinney TX).

    2. The ones I buy are in the fresh veggie section, they are REALLY ugly so you may not even know you’ve seen them. At least that’s how it was for me, I was like ew!!! when I saw them until I found out how wonderful they are as pasta after a bit of slicing.

    1. Sometimes that’s what it’s sold as just like “yams” are sold but most of the ones here in Oregon are not actually yams but colorful sweet potatoes.

  14. This looks delicious but enlighten me please as I am starting my Paleo diet now: I thought dairy was out of question. What about the whole cream and parmesan cheese in this recipe? Thanks.

    1. While dairy is not paleo, Primal is MUCH less stringent. If you can tolerate dairy, do it. If you cannot, then omit that ingredient. Besides, 1/4 cup is really not that much. As for the Parmesan… Use Pecorino Romano – it’s made from sheeps milk.

  15. I just made this tonight and since my husband doesn’t tolerate dairy, I add cashew cream to give it that rich creamy flavor to replace the whole cream. I wilted some spinach at the end of sautéing mushrooms and the result was delicious! Thanks!