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!
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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.
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
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.
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!
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Rigatoni Pasta Bake
- 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
- 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.
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