Rigatoni Pasta Bake

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 8 servings

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This Rigatoni Pasta Bake is an easy weeknight dinner that’ll make everyone at the table happy! Tender rigatoni is tossed in a flavorful meat sauce and gets baked to perfection beneath a blanket of both parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Make ahead and freezer friendly!

Enjoy more of the best baked pasta dinner recipes like Baked Mostaccioli Pasta, Baked Gnocchi with Sausage and Cheesy Baked Spaghetti.

white baking dish filled with rigatoni pasta bake topped with chopped parsley on white surface.

This rigatoni pasta bake is great for those nights when you’re seriously hungry and need to feed a small army! Tender bites of rigatoni pasta are served with a seasoned meat sauce that’ll make your mouth water all under a generous coating of cheesy goodness.

This make-ahead, freezer-friendly baked rigatoni recipe is sure to be a regular in your menu rotation! It’s easy-peasy to toss together and always hits the spot.

Why we love this pasta bake recipe:

  • Filling: With plenty of pasta and ground beef, this dinner is sure to fill you up after just one serving. However, it’s so good you may just go back for seconds anyways!
  • Freezer-Friendly: This is an excellent dinner to make ahead of time and freeze for later! Scroll down for more info on the simple freezing process.
  • So Easy: This is a huge win in my home, especially on those crazy busy weeknights! This baked rigatoni recipe takes just about 15 minutes to prepare before you toss it in the oven.
  • Inexpensive: This recipe is loaded with budget-friendly ingredients that’ll give you a great family dinner without breaking the bank.
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Ingredients Needed for Rigatoni Pasta Bake

  • Beef: I like to use lean ground beef in this recipe. It has plenty of flavor, and less fat than ground chuck.
  • Onion: You can use any kind of onion—red, white, yellow, or sweet. Dice it into small pieces.
  • Italian Seasoning: An Italian seasoning blend gives a savory herbal flavor to this bake. Feel free to substitute whatever herbs and seasonings you like, though. Basil, oregano, parsley, etc.
  • Garlic: Freshly minced garlic gives the brightest flavor, but you could substitute garlic powder as well.
  • Salt and Pepper: A little goes a long way!
  • Marinara Sauce: You’ll need a couple of large jars of your favorite pasta sauce.
  • Rigatoni: If you can’t find (or don’t want to use) rigatoni, penne pasta makes a good substitute, and so does ziti.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: Shredded mozzarella is my go-to! Provolone is also a good option.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Freshly shredded tastes best if you have time to spare.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Add more or less to alter the heat level of the meat sauce.

How to make Rigatoni Pasta Bake

Take a look at how to toss together this easy pasta bake! Keep scrolling to the bottom of this page for more detailed instructions.

  • Cook the ground beef and onion together until the meat is browned and the onions have softened. Drain any fat.
  • Add the Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper to the meat. Cook for just 1 minute.
  • Stir the pasta sauce into the dish. Cook for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
  • Cook the rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente. You don’t want it to be too soft! Reserve ½ cup of pasta water after draining.
  • Stir the reserved pasta water into the meat sauce, and then combine the pasta and sauce, stirring well.
  • Pour the pasta into a baking dish, cover with foil and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Uncover, add cheeses, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Dairy Free: To make this pasta bake dairy free, simply swap the cheese for dairy free cheese. Or, leave the cheese out entirely. Be sure to check the rest of your ingredients to make sure they don’t have dairy in them.
  • Veggies: Bump up the veggie content of this casserole by adding extra vegetables to the meat sauce as it cooks. Mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, or even shredded carrots go well in here!
  • Lighten Up: To lighten the recipe, 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 pasta sauce with no added sugar and unrecognizable ingredients
plate filled with rigatoni pasta bake and a fork beside.

How to store Rigatoni Pasta Bake

Place the pasta bake in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. To reheat, place the desired portion in an oven-safe dish, add a splash of water or broth, cover and bake at 350°F until heated through.

Can I freeze Rigatoni Pasta Bake?

Yes! Simply cover in plastic wrap and then in a layer of tin foil to prevent freezer burn. Label with the recipe name and the date, and pop it in the freezer.

Thaw and cook: I like to thaw and cook so that it heats through more evenly. Simply place the frozen casserole on the counter to thaw for about 6 hours, or leave in the fridge overnight. Add a splash of water, cover and bake at 350°F until heated through, about 20-25 minutes.

Cook from frozen: place the casserole in the oven at 350°F, covered only with foil. Bake until heated through, about 50-60 minutes. It may take up to 90 minutes, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it to be sure. If your baking dish is not freezer-to-oven safe, then take the casserole out of the freezer early, and leave it out on the counter to thaw for 1-2 hours before baking.

overhead view of a white dish filled with rigatoni pasta bake and a steel ladle.

Can I make it ahead of time?

Absolutely! Simply prepare your pasta bake up to the point of baking. Then cover in plastic wrap or foil (or a lid if your baking dish has one that fits tightly). Stick it in the fridge for up to 4 days. When you’re ready to bake, pour ½ cup water over the pasta (trust me on this one!) and bake as per the instructions.

PRO TIP: The reason I pour the water over is that the pasta soaks up moisture as it sits in the refrigerator. Adding water will help the dish bake up moist, and will result in delicious, saucy pasta, not watery pasta as you might think!

Serving suggestions:

Serve this saucy baked pasta recipe with a veggie side to lighten things up a bit! Some of my favorites include Cheesy Baked Asparagus, Air Fryer Broccoli and Roasted Vegetables.

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Rigatoni Pasta Bake

5 from 197 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 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Cuisine American, Italian
Course Main Course
Servings 8 servings
Calories 440cal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoon red chili flakes (according to your tastes)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 5 cups tomato pasta sauce roughly 2 jars
  • 500 grams Rigatoni pasta about 1 lb
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley to garnish

Instructions

  • 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, red chili flakes 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 mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake an additional 10 minutes (or broil 2-3 minutes), until cheese has started to brown.

Notes

Ingredients and Substitutions:
Ground Beef: feel free to swap the ground beef for ground Italian sausage (mild or spicy according to your tastes), or ground pork, chicken or turkey.
Vegetables: onion provides a great flavor base for our sauce, but this is also a great time to add in other vegetables. Finely chopped or shredded carrots, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, celery and more are great additions. You can also stir some spinach into the sauce after simmering.
Rigatoni: this recipe works just as well with any cut of pasta! Feel free to use what you have on hand. I often use a whole grain variety. 

Nutrition Information

Serving: 376grams | 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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Comments

  1. Dominique says

    I used this recipe as a guide and did 2.30 lbs ground beef (what I had in the freezer) and halved the amount of noodles. That was perfect for us and our toddlers with the higher volume of protein as we do not like too many carbs. I also added veggies (celery, red pepper) like she recommended. I cooked it in a large braiser on the stove so then I could just transfer it to the oven and it did not need as long in the oven since everything was already warmed. Tip: preheat the oven and start boiling water/making noodles first while you’re prepping the meat and veggies (instead of waiting until step 4) to save on time. Saving this recipe for the future!

  2. Morgan says

    This looks so good! I’m making this for family so I will need to freeze during a difficult time, do you have an around about time for heating back up in oven at 350?

    • The Recipe Rebel says

      Hi Morgan! It’s until it is heat through. Lots of variables will decide to exactly how long it will take such as oven type, how long it sits outside the freezer, if you are reheating straight from frozen. I’d keep an eye on it but it will likely take a minimum of 1/2 an hour.

  3. Michelle says

    We made this at Scout camp over the weekend, quadrupling the recipe and cooking in two 13×18 pans. I used half ground turkey, half Italian sausage. Also topped with parmesan cheese after baking. Delicious! Everyone loved it. We will probably try it again in a dutch oven over coals at some point.

    • jimAND ROSE nashwinter says

      love rigatoni;we are from niagara falls and grew up on italian food;keep up the great work;jim and rose

    • Nicole says

      I made this tonight. I had garden fresh veggies (frozen – carrots, corn, peas and green beans) that I added to the onions once they turned translucent. Love t how versatile this recipe is!

      • Tammy says

        I need your email address so you can address this issue. Hopefully it will work and I can start saving your wonderful recipes. Thanks, Tammy

  4. 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! 😋

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

    • Meg says

      I have the exact same situation. Only tomato sauce in a can because when I make spaghetti I make my sauce homemade from scratch. So what I did was I added a small can of tomato paste in my sauce to thicken it up a little bit a 6 oz can. Is in the oven now but it did look a lot thicker once I got that in there than it did to begin with.

  8. 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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