Rigatoni Pasta Bake

Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 8 servings

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This Rigatoni Pasta Bake is a hearty and comforting casserole made up meat sauce, rigatoni pasta and cheese! Meal prep and freezer friendly ground beef casserole.

rigatoni pasta bake overhead in white baking dish on dark blue background with fresh parsley on the side
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Table of Contents
  1. How to freeze this Rigatoni Pasta Bake:
  2. How to prep it ahead:
  3. Variations of this Rigatoni Pasta Bake:
  4. Rigatoni Pasta Bake Recipe

I shared this recipe first on Spend With Pennies.

I know we’ve all been there.

It’s 4:59pm, you have a 1 year old on one hip and you’re wondering what to make with the ground beef you took out that can be done with your one remaining hand.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way.

The answer? This Rigatoni Pasta Bake.

A pasta bake can really be made of any pasta, and pretty much any sauce, and pretty much any protein or veggies or none at all.

This pasta bake is your new favorite ground beef casserole — made up of rigatoni, cooked just until al dente, a hearty tomato-based meat sauce, and loads of cheese.

If you ask me, casseroles have gotten a bad rep, but in reality they’re a busy mom’s best friend.

rigatoni pasta bake ground beef casserole close up in white baking dish on blue background

You can get all the food groups in one simple dish: protein, veggies, dairy, carbs. You can load it up with all kinds of flavor and sneak in all kinds of things your kids wouldn’t normally want to eat.

You can make it when you have time, stash it in the fridge or freezer, and then pop it in the oven to be ready whenever you need it. So simple, so flavorful.

How to freeze this Rigatoni Pasta Bake:

Like pretty much all ground beef casserole recipes, this Rigatoni Pasta Bake freezes wonderfully.

Simply cover in plastic wrap and then tin foil (to prevent freezer burn), label with the name and date, and pop it in the freezer.

When you’re ready to cook, place in the oven at 350 degrees F, covered only with foil, and bake until heated through, about 50-60 minutes (this can take up to 90 minutes, but you will need to keep an eye on it to be sure). If your baking dish is not freezer-to-oven safe, leave the dish out on the counter for at least 1-2 hours before placing in the oven.

How to prep it ahead:

To make this Rigatoni Pasta Bake ahead, simply prepare up to the point of baking. Cover in plastic wrap or foil, or a lid if your baking dish has one that fits tightly.

Stick it in the fridge up to 3 days, then pour ½ cup water over the pasta (trust me on this one!) and bake as per the instructions.

rigatoni pasta bake plated on grey plate with fresh parsley on top

The reason I pour the water over is because as the pasta sits in the refrigerator, it soaks up more of the moisture. Adding water to the dish and then covering will help the pasta and sauce stay moist, and will result in delicious, saucy pasta and not watery pasta as you might think.

Variations of this Rigatoni Pasta Bake:

  • To make this pasta bake dairy-free: simply swap the cheese for dairy free cheese or leave it out, and be sure to double check the rest of your ingredients.
  • To make this pasta bake gluten-free: swap the regular rigatoni for gluten-free rigatoni or penne, and double check all of your ingredients.
  • To bump up the veggie content in this casserole: add extra vegetables to the meat sauce while cooking. Mushrooms, zucchini, peppers or even shredded carrots go well in here!
  • To lighten it up: opt for ground turkey or Italian turkey sausage in place of the ground beef, and use low fat cheese. Also be sure to look for a pasta sauce with no added sugar and recognizable ingredients.
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Rigatoni Pasta Bake

5 from 51 votes
This Rigatoni Pasta Bake is a hearty and comforting casserole made up meat sauce, rigatoni pasta and cheese! Meal prep and freezer friendly.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Cuisine American, Italian
Course Main Course
Servings 8 servings
Calories 440cal


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 cups tomato pasta sauce roughly 2 jars
  • 500 grams Rigatoni pasta about 1 lb
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


  • In a large saucepan, stir and cook ground beef and onion over medium heat until browned and onions have softened. Drain any juices released.
  • Add the Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the pasta sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat, for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add rigatoni, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook just until al dente (it will continue to cook slightly in the oven).
  • Reserve ½ cup pasta water and drain pasta. Stir reserved pasta water into meat sauce.
  • Combine pasta and pasta sauce in saucepan. Pour into a lightly greased 9×13″ or similar baking dish.
  • Cover with a lightly greased piece of foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until heated through.
  • **Optionally, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Bake at 350 degrees F until heated through, about 30-40 minutes.
  • Uncover and sprinkle with cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes, until cheese has started to brown.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 440cal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 1310mg | Potassium: 899mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 865IU | Vitamin C: 12.3mg | Calcium: 196mg | Iron: 4.1mg
Keywords baked pasta, freezer meals, make ahead meal

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Meet Ashley

My name is Ashley Fehr and I love creating easy meals my family loves. I also like to do things my way, which means improvising and breaking the rules when necessary. Here you will find creative twists on old favorites and some of my favorite family recipes, passed down from generations!

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Reader Interactions


  1. Meg Spangler says

    This was awesome! Had it tonight with my boyfriend who also thought it was really good! We had it with a side salad and it was better than any other baked rigatoni recipe I’ve tried. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes like the Millionaire Shortbread! 😋

  2. Ross says

    It turned out delicious but I used 1 pound of ground beef and 1 teaspoon of salt according to the recipe but when I tasted it the salt was overwhelming. Ended up going on google to see how to reduce the saltiness and it recommended some lemon juice and a little sugar. It worked but I still can’t figure out why it was so salty originally. Any advice?

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Ross, So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this review! I have no idea why it would taste salty to you, we do not have that issue. You could always try to use unsalted tomato sauce, that might work better for you.

  3. Vickie says

    Cooked noodles for five minutes and they were hard as rocks. Came out that way too. What did I do wrong?

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Vickie! I’ve not seen where rigatoni only cooks in 5 minutes. It’s normally 10-12 minutes. As stated in Step 4, you are cooking it to just al dente but I didn’t list an exact time.

    • Amanda Trayes says

      You don’t cook the noodles for 5 minutes. You cook the sauce with the meat mixture for 5 minutes. You cook the noodles til al dente

  4. Melissa Hartley says

    Can I use tomato sauce instead of sauce in a jar? I also want to add a can of diced tomatoes. I sure wish I had some Italian sausage to add, that would give it a lot of flavor.
    Thank you.

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Melissa! I haven’t tried this with just using tomato sauce. It is a lot thinner than jarred pasta sauce so the consistency may be off. Hope you enjoy it!

  5. Nicolette S says

    This was so easy and fun to make! I did use two jars of spaghetti sauce (24 oz each) and noticed in the comments after the fact that I was only supposed to us 40 oz so I used 8 oz’s too much but it still turned out fantastic! I did sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese on top with the rest of the cheese cause we all love cheese. All in all, this is definitely a repeat recipe for my family!

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