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 200 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. Vyckie says

    This recipe is simple, fast and delicious! I did add a little Parmesan cheese. My husband said it was a “do over recipe” he enjoyed it so much!

  2. Rena Pichcuskie says

    Update!!!
    I said I added Sausage to my casserole forgot to state that I Pre- cooked it first!
    I did not add raw sausage.
    Thanks

  3. Rena Pichcuskie says

    Hi Ashley,
    I made this but added hot and mild sausage to it. Also the only pasta noodles I had on hand was Large Shells. It came out phenomenal!!! Thank You 🤗
    Rena

  4. Laura says

    This is so good! This is actually my go-to when making food for a meal train. It makes SO much and I always get great feedback on it. I love that it’s SO easy!

  5. Kelsey says

    This is probably a stupid question but if you are making this to freeze for later, do you prep up until the point of baking and then cover and freeze or partially bake and then cool/freeze?

  6. sapat says

    This isn’t a 1 star comment at all. I just have a couple questions before I make it.

    I’m going to try this tomorrow night. I’d like to use ricotta as well. Do you think it would work if I put 1/2 the sauce in the baking dish, add plops of ricotta on top then add the rest of the sauce and parm?

    *US – 5 cups is 40oz
    I buy the smaller 24 oz jar for hubby and me. I have 1 of those and as it happens, I have a 14oz jar of pizzeria style sauce (same brand) with almost identical ingredients This would be 38oz combined. Would being short 2oz be a big deal?

    Thanks!

    • Ashley Fehr says

      2 oz shouldn’t be a big deal! If it beings to look dry, a splash of water or broth around the edge of the pan as it bakes can do wonders. Your plan with the ricotta sounds great!

  7. Trish H. says

    Made this last night and it was a big hit! I took the advice of another and only used one 32 oz. jar of marinara sauce, and added one 8 oz can of Hunts no salt added tomato sauce, so as not to have half a jar of sauce leftover. I already had diced onions in the freezer so cooked those with the beef. And used about a 1/2 tsp of dried minced garlic instead of the fresh only because I wanted to spare washing a knife and a cutting board. I also totally forgot to save the 1/2 cup of pasta water. Whoops! I did not sub in any extra liquid and it was still delicious.

  8. K says

    Made with Italian sausage and ground beef for my grandson & his family of 5. Was a big hit! Sprinkled with Parmesan on individual servings. Will definitely keep in rotation for company dinners.

  9. Diane says

    This was great! Very easy and like others said, the ingredients are common things that I usually have on hand. And makes a ton! Great for crowd or to freeze half. Thank you for recipe Ashley!

  10. TM says

    Made this with Beyond Beef, one jar of pasta sauce plus one can of tomato sauce, and grated cheese sticks since that was the only mozzarella I had on hand. My family LOVED this dish!

  11. Jessica Formicola says

    This is our go to pasta recipe! It gets requested at least once a week and is loved by the whole family!

5 from 200 votes (170 ratings without comment)

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