This baked rigatoni recipe is pasta tossed in a flavorful meat sauce, then topped with plenty of cheese and baked until golden brown. A super easy dinner option that’s great for feeding a crowd!
When I need to cook for a large group, I often make a big dish full of baked rigatoni pasta. It’s east to make, popular with both kids and adults, and can be easily customized to fit anyone’s preferences.
What is rigatoni pasta used for?
Rigatoni is a hearty, tube shaped pasta with ridges on the outside which help the sauce adhere to the noodles. Rigatoni is great for baked pasta dishes, and holds up well to thicker sauces such as cream sauces or chunky tomato sauces. If you can’t find rigatoni at your local grocery store, penne is a good substitute.
How do you make baked rigatoni?
Make baked rigatoni by first cooking up a combination of ground beef and mild Italian sausage. Make sure to break up the meat into small crumbles. Add an onion to the pan and cook it until softened. Saute a little garlic in that pan and add marinara and tomato sauces. When the sauce has simmered and thickened, toss some cooked rigatoni in the sauce. Pour the pasta and sauce into a baking pan and top it with mozzarella cheese. Bake the dish until the cheese is golden brown and melted. Serve the pasta with a little chopped parsley on top.
Tips for the perfect baked rigatoni
- Shred your own mozzarella cheese. Don’t use pre-shredded cheese which often has anti-caking agents that prevent the cheese from melting well.
- Use a high quality marinara sauce. I like Newman’s Own which has a nice complex flavor.
- I use 90% lean ground beef – it has plenty of flavor but is not overly greasy.
- This dish can be assembled up to 6 hours before you plan to bake it. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to put it in the oven. You may need to add a few minutes more to the cook time to compensate for starting with a chilled dish.
Baked rigatoni pasta variations
I typically make this recipe exactly as it’s written. However, you can modify the recipe to suit your tastes.
- Meat – Try using ground turkey, turkey sausage or diced cooked chicken instead of ground beef and Italian sausage.
- Vegetables – Add sauteed vegetables to the sauce such as mushrooms, spinach, zucchini or bell peppers. Olives, sun dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts are also fabulous in this dish.
- Cheese – Instead of mozzarella, try another cheese that melts well like provolone or fontina. You can also add a layer of ricotta in the middle of the dish.
Can you freeze baked pasta?
This dish can be frozen for up to 2 months. Tightly cover the top of your dish with foil, then cover everything with plastic wrap to get as tight of a seal as possible. You can thaw the dish, or bake it from frozen. If you bake from frozen, you’ll need to add another 20-30 minutes to the cook time.
This recipe is easy to make and will delight your family and friends. Give this dish a try the next time you are in the mood for some good old fashioned comfort food!
More pasta dishes you’ll enjoy
- Mushroom Pasta with Bacon
- Buffalo Chicken Pasta
- Pasta Pomodoro
- Butternut Squash Pasta
- Philly Cheesesteak Pasta
Baked Rigatoni Video
Baked Rigatoni Pasta
For the sauce
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef I use 90% lean
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage casings removed
- 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons garlic minced
- 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 16 ounces rigatoni pasta cooked according to package directions
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray.
For the sauce
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and sausage to the pan. Season the meat with salt and pepper.
- Cook the meat for 3-4 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces with a spoon. Add the onion to the pan. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until meat is browned and cooked through and onion is softened.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the marinara sauce and tomato sauce to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer.
- Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes or until just thickened
- Toss the cooked rigatoni with the sauce.
- Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared pan and top with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and cheese is melted and browned.
- Sprinkle with parsley. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.