ZO handy! Cheese bread and baked pasta without the fuss.

If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you’ll know that 2 days ago I described the many reasons I love my test kitchen Zojirushi bread machine.

I mean, I feel like Ron Popeil, the Ronco guy:  “It slices, it dices, and so much more!”

Well, the Zo doesn’t slice-and-dice.

But “so much more”?

You betcha.

Try baked pasta. And not just an “empty-nester” version, but a complete dinner, enough to serve 8 to 12 fairly hearty eaters.

Really, the Zo is like one of those tiny circus cars, whose doors open to emit 16 clowns: Spoon the baked pasta out of the bread machine bucket and it’ll fill a good-sized serving bowl – the equivalent of a 2-quart casserole dish.

And all without heating up your oven, or being left with a bunch of pans to clean.

One frying pan. One bread machine bucket, easily rinsed clean in warm soapy water.

And a whole lotta love for your BFF in the kitchen, the Zo.

First, let’s make some Savory Cheddar Cheese Bread to go with the baked pasta.

This tasty cheese bread is baked right in the Zojirushi bread machine.

So, how come it doesn’t have the holes in the bottom from the paddles?

Read on…

First, the cheese. For best flavor, choose an assertive cheddar. Cabot Racers’ Edge or Extra Sharp are both good choices, as is a good sharp Wisconsin yellow cheddar.

Put the following in the bucket of your bread machine:

1 cup lukewarm milk*
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, firmly packed
1/4 cup Vermont cheese powder**
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 to 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce, optional
*Add an additional tablespoon of milk during the winter, or if you live in a dry climate.
**Substitute grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Program the machine for basic bread, light crust setting.

Press Start.

Check the dough after about 10 minutes of kneading; it should have formed a cohesive ball, and be slightly sticky. Adjust its consistency with additional milk or flour, if necessary.

Once you’ve checked the dough, you can walk away and come back in a few hours to find a warm loaf of baked bread.

Or, you can fuss with it a bit, and make an even better loaf.

Here’s the bread after its second rise. It’s about to head into its third and final rise. Looks pretty good, but… wish it was spread out a bit more.

And I’d so like to NOT have to deal with those big paddles once the loaf is baked; they make it hard to get the loaf out of the pan intact.


Once the dough has completed its second rise, take it out of the bucket. Remove the paddles.

Shape the dough into a nice log, and replace it in the bucket. (No, there’s no need to grease the bucket; it’s wonderfully non-stick.

Let the machine complete its cycle.

3 hours, 25 minutes after you started…

…a perfectly shaped, golden loaf.

One that comes out of the pan without a fuss.

On the left, a loaf made without removing the paddles after the second rise. I had to fight to get it out, and actually dropped it on its head in the process, squashing the top crust.

On the right, the loaf made with the paddles removed.

And check out their respective bottoms. On the left, the bread with the paddles removed prior to baking. Hardly a mark.

On the right, the bread with the paddles left in. BIG divot.

Let’s take one more look. On the left, the loaf made from dough that wasn’t reshaped prior to baking. On the right, the loaf I reshaped before it baked.

Quite a difference, eh? My theory is that shaping the bread by hand, folding it over and rolling it into a log, lends structure it wouldn’t otherwise have; structure that translates into height as the loaf bakes.

So, if you want to pursue this semi-hands-on bread machine baking, how do you know when to remove the paddles and reshape the loaf?

For the Zo CEC20, their newest model, it’s easy. Simply select basic bread; and make sure the preheat cycle is off (easily done; simply press and hold the TIME and CYCLE buttons together for at least 3 seconds, until PREHEAT OFF appears in the display).

Set a kitchen timer for 88 minutes; press START on the bread machine, and on your timer.

Exactly 88 minutes later, the machine will stir down the dough for the second and final time. Lift it out, remove the paddles, shape the loaf, replace, shut the cover, and walk away. You’re done.

The older Zo X20 is a bit trickier, as its cycles have some wiggle room, time-wise. When I tried this in our X20, with the preheat cycle off, it took 78 minutes to reach the second stir-down. But according to the instruction manual, it could take 83 minutes, or 88 minutes. The first time you do this, you’ll want to be hanging around the machine starting at 78 minutes, just to make sure. Going forward, it’ll probably replicate that first time you observe.

If you want to avoid all of this, simply program the machine for the dough cycle, or your own homemade cycle (to avoid that pesky preheat cycle). Take the dough out of the machine when it completes the cycle, and bake it in a standard loaf pan (8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″) in your oven. About 35 minutes in a 350°F oven should do it.

Either way – nice loaf, eh?

Next up: the main course.

Smith Family Pasta Bake, a tasty combo of pasta, onions, cheese, and tomato, lightened and enriched with a creamy, milk-based sauce.

Sauté 4 cups chopped onions and 3 peeled, crushed garlic cloves in 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, until the onions are soft and golden. This will take about 15 minutes.

Stir in 1/2 cup (2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.

Gradually add 4 cups milk, stirring until smooth and thickened.

Like this.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional). Stir to combine.

What if you don’t like mustard? Don’t add it. Ditto salt, pepper, or nutmeg. None are critical to the recipe’s success or failure, structurally speaking; they simply help create its rich flavor.

Next up: 3 cups pasta sauce, a.k.a. one standard 24-ounce jar.

I buy Newman’s Own when it’s on sale – it’s really tasty, and the company donates part of the proceeds to charity.

Pour the sauce into the onion mixture.

Add 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar, if desired. I always add sugar to pasta sauce; I feel it cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. But if you’re not used to doing this, use the sauce straight.

Stir to combine, and remove from the heat.

Remove the paddles from your bread machine bucket. Spray it with non-stick vegetable oil spray; we use Everbake here in the test kitchen, as it doesn’t leave any sticky residue on the pan.

Next, you’re going to need the following:

1 pound pasta, about 6 cups (uncooked): shells, ziti, rotelli, elbows, etc.; choose your favorite shape
3 cups packed, shredded cheese; a mixture of Parmesan and mozzarella is tasty

First, pour about 1 1/2 cups (about one quarter) of the pasta sauce into the bucket.

Add 2 cups (one third) of the uncooked pasta…

…and about 1 cup (one third) of the cheese.

Repeat the layers, finishing with sauce and cheese. Here’s how it goes:

1. sauce (1 1/2 cups per layer)
2. pasta (2 cups per layer)
3. cheese (1 packed cup per layer)
4. sauce
5. pasta
6. cheese
7. sauce
8. pasta
9. sauce
10. cheese

Sprinkle the top with pizza seasoning, if desired.

Use the homemade menu to program for “bake only,” 70 minutes.

The keep-warm option is — well, optional, if you want to keep the casserole warm for awhile after it’s baked.

Press Start.

Come back 70 minutes later to find a bubbling, golden pasta casserole.

Scoop out and serve.

Hmmm, which of the above dinner items was NOT made in the bread machine?

Kind of obvious; though who knows… using the Zo as a hydroponic seed starter for lettuce? I see real possibilities here!

And, lest we forget dessert: Easy Chocolate Pudding Cake is truly easy when made in your bread machine.

Looking for more “beyond bread” recipes for your Zo? Try peach cobbler, Sloppy Joes, and creamy risotto.

And, file this away for Thanksgiving: scalloped potatoes, classic bread stuffing, and homemade cranberry sauce.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Savory Cheddar Cheese Bread; and our recipe for Smith Family Pasta Bake.

Print just the Savory Cheese Bread recipe.

Print just the Smith Family pasta bake recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. helenstrub

    PJ, this looks great, but I’m pretty sure Ron Popeil is still alive. LOL

    Helen, you’re so right… Wonder where I got that idea? Thanks for setting me straight! 🙂 PJH

  2. SomeWhiteGuy

    These look wonderful. Can that bread recipe be altered for non-bread machine baking? I don’t have room in our little kitchen for that kind of monster… even though I’d love one. My guess is that I can follow the standard bread procedure of mix, knead, rise, shape, rise, bake? The Casserole looks similar (guessing the bake is at 350).
    Looks like I have dinner planned for tonight :-D.

    Exactly right – both the cheese bread and casserole can be prepared using non-bread machine methods, as you note above. Bread should go in an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan and bake for about 35 minutes; casserole would be fine in a 9″ x 13″ for about 45 minutes. Enjoy! PJH

  3. debdevo

    I would just like a confirmation that if I’m doing the pasta casserole in a 9″ by 13″ pan, I can still use DRY pasta? This sounds like an excellent casserole to make up and freeze unbaked, to be given to friends when they don’t have time to do their own cooking. I’m always looking for stuff like that, and being able to use dried pasta would make it that much easier. BTW – thanks for this blog, I am always touting off about it to friends, and have converted several into reading it and buying KAF stuff!

    Yes, that’s right, you can use unbaked pasta. I’d advise against anything too big and hard and clunky, though; try to stick with pasta that the package says cooks in under 10 minutes. And – thanks for helping us with our marketing. Much appreciated! 🙂 PJH

  4. cheesypoofy

    OH MY! What an EDJEET I have been. I always check my dough after kneading and it would be PERFECTLY possible to take out the paddles after the knock-down of the dough (before 2nd rising.) WHY OH WHY didn’t I think of that? You guys are geniuses. The pasta bake is also genius. Bread machines were invented for Japanese kitchens, which typically do not have ovens, so why not use it as a lasagna pan.

    Keep in mind, there are actually 3 rises (at least on the CEC20), so you’d want to wait until after the second knock-down, before the third rise… My mom has been using her Zo as an oven for years. Meatloaf, stew, layered veggies/hamburg, etc. Give it a try – 🙂 PJH

  5. c2w4133

    Your step by step illustrations are fun and informative. This time there’s a little uh-oh. Your Cheese Bread illustration states to take dough out of bucket, remove paddles, shape dough, etc etc when THIRD RISE IS COMPLETED.

    In worded directions, it does state to remove paddles after the second and final stir down to remove paddles, etc etc. which makes more sense. Just thought you’d like to have both be in accord. I love the technique to remove paddles. Cheese Bread recipe sounds oh so deelish! Plan to create and enjoy an unpaddled bread. Ahhhh–looking forward to removing bread with ease. Thank you, Thank you!!

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll let PJ know. Sorry for any confusion. Frank @ KAF.

    All fixed – thanks for the heads up. PJH

  6. starrw

    PJ you are brilliant! I was just thinking about trying to bake in my ZO and pulling out the paddle. As my last loaf baked in kind of looked like the one you had dropped Thanks for the info.

  7. lakelynn

    Bake in a Zo??? DUH but I never thought of it. Both the bread and pasta sound great! I’ve used KAF for quite a while and just re-subscribed to your baking sheet – your CD “extra” was too good to pass up. Thanks for some new ideas!!!

    thanks for coming back to the Baking Sheet! And yes, those bread machines are ZO wonderful 🙂 Susan

  8. Regan

    Wow. this seems so obvious (about the reshaping), but I’d never thought about it. Thanks for the tip.

    ~Cabot Creamery

  9. chinchillalover

    Um the links are kind of funky,i clicked on peach cobbler,sloppy joes,creamy risotto and it took me to the pudding cake blog.I just thought i would mention it.

    Thanks – should be all set now. PJH

  10. LinaBrooks

    Can this be made in a slow cooker (the closest thing I have to a Zo)?


    I’m think so, Lina – try it at the high setting, and see what happens. Should be fine. PJH

  11. annewilson41

    You say it’s not necessary to grease the pan, and I agree … except for those pesky posts. The one time I tried this method, I removed the paddles, which are non-stick like the bucket, but the bread stuck to the posts like cement and all benefit was lost in prying the bread loose. I suggest a quick spray of something greasy just on the posts when putting the shaped log back in the bucket.

  12. obiel

    Why do you want to skip the preheat cycle??

    As always every thing sounds mouth watering good!!

    We’ve found the preheat function to be unnecessary. To cancel this feature, see page 8 in the Zo manual. Frank @ KAF.

  13. booklady3102

    Casserole sounds yummy–and big. Do you think it would freeze if I put it a couple of smaller dishes? Don’t know about the cheese…I’d like one to share with my sister.

    I did freeze the left overs (no there wasn’t much after this ones tour through the employee lunch room). Fresh, the pasta was very moist, but like all pasta dishes it did “firm up” as the pasta continued to absorb the sauce. Out of the freezer it was a little on the dry side. If the plan is to freeze ahead, I suggest reducing the amount of pasta to 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cup per layer, instead of the 2 cups per layer as written. Give it a try. Frank @ KAF.

  14. ssuch535558

    I love my Zo Jr *and use recipes from bread machine cookbooks – I would really like to try the KAF recipes for my Zo. How can I change the recipe to fit my 1 lb Zo?

    *My first Zo was the Zo Jr. LOVED it and I had it for many, many years. I now have a newer Zo that my husband got me from KAF- it is no longer called the Zo Jr but still only makes a 1 lb loaf.

    The mini Zo will mix and knead a recipe that uses 3 Cups flour; but mix, knead and bake a recipe that uses up to 2 1/2 cups flour. Look for the recipes on our website written specifically for the smaller Zo by typing “mini zo” into the search box. You can also scale full size recipes using 2/3 the written amounts to fit in the mini Zo. Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

  15. goodlist

    Taking the paddles out is interesting. Can you do this with any brand machine? I have a Breadman about 10 years old. It does make good bread. It has a jam cycle. Cane I use this cycle for other things?

    Being unfamiliar with the Breadman machines, I can only advise that you see the manual for the machine for instructions on removing the paddles and to find recipes for the jam cycle (or other kinds of things). It is likely if you can remove the paddles, you can remove them after the bread goes through the final stir down before proofing and baking–but you’ll want to read up to know how to interrupt your machine’s cycle. If you have difficulty finding your original manual, here is a link to many Breadman manuals: http://www.megaheart.com/breadmachine_manuals.html Best, Kim@KAF

  16. goodlist

    Removing the paddle sounds interesting. Can this be done on any brand machine?

    It varies with the machines! I advise looking in your machine’s manual to see how to do this: interrupting the cycle and removing the paddles, if possible. Best, Kim@KAF

  17. AVMO

    I just got a new Zo..I’ve read elsewhere not to use spray on bucket..Love this idea..just want to make sure I dont ruin bucket TIA

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We used Everbake spray as it leaves no sticky residue on pans. If your choice of cooking spray doesn’t leave residue on other baking pans, it should be fine to use in the Zo bucket. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  18. Lois S

    I just gifted myself the Zo BB-PAC20 and am wondering if you know when the 2nd rise would be complete so I could pull out the dough, shape it and remove the paddles before returning the dough for the final rise? Thanks SO much for all of your recipes and tips! I always check for recipes on KAF’s website and blog before looking elsewhere. I have NEVER been disappointed by any of your recipes if I follow them exactly.

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Lois, your timing is exquisite: read our current blog post on bread machine baking, which details the best way to remove the paddles and reshape the loaf just before baking, as well as some other neat tips. Enjoy! PJH

  19. Rebecca K.

    PJ – I followed the bread recipe using the X20 (turned the preheat off and it knocked down around the 78 min mark for the 3rd rise). I shaped it and let it go but the bread collapsed. I am in NH and did add the extra tbsp of milk and used red Saf-Instant yeast. What might I have done wrong?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The extra tablespoon of milk may have caused the dough to be a bit too wet, which will make it more likely to collapse. In addition, some cheeses may add more moisture to the bread than others. Next time I would recommend leaving out the extra milk. You can also add a bit more flour to the dough while it’s mixing and kneading, if it seems very moist. Barb@KAF

  20. The Baker's Hotline

    The added milk probably made the dough a bit too wet, which will make it more likely to fall. I would leave it out next time. And some cheeses may add more moisture to the dough than others, depending on the fat content.


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