For a hearty meal the entire family will love, you just can’t beat baked rigatoni.
It’s meaty, cheesy, wonderfully saucy, and full of robust, herby flavor. No one can possibly resist it!
Once you discover how easy it is to make, you’ll put it in your weekly rotation. After all, it’s hard to beat something that tastes so good and is so simple to make.
Try it tonight, and prepare to be impressed!
Baked rigatoni isn’t the traditional classic that spaghetti or lasagna is. But it’s still a delicious meal with tons of meat, sauce, and yummy Italian flavor.
Some people claim it’s like a hybrid of spaghetti and lasagna. It has the tender noodles and marinara sauce of spaghetti. But it’s meaty, hearty, and cheesy, like lasagna.
However you want to describe it, there’s no denying it’s absolutely scrumptious. It’s an easy family favorite that’s perfect for meal-prepping, too.
Serve it with a leafy green salad or some crusty, buttery garlic bread for a complete meal.
The ingredients list is a little long, but it’s mostly easy-to-acquire stuff:
- Lean ground beef and Italian sausage. The recipe calls for both, but you can use one or the other if you prefer. Select spicy Italian sausage for a bit of heat. Stick to lean ground beef so it isn’t so greasy.
- Onion and garlic cloves. Fresh yellow onion and freshly minced garlic cloves work best. They provide an earthy, umami flavor to the dish that you won’t want to miss.
- Marinara sauce. Homemade or store-bought is fine. Just pick a brand (or recipe) that you enjoy.
- Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. The seasoning mixture may seem basic, but it adds a ton of flavor. Feel free to tweak the seasonings with some of your own favorites.
- Rigatoni. Technically, you could use whatever pasta you have on hand. However, rigatoni’s shape, size, and ridges make it perfect for holding the sauce and meat.
- Mozzarella cheese. As with the onions, freshly shredded mozzarella is best. You can use the store-bought kind. But it comes with an anti-clumping agent that makes it harder to melt.
How to Make Baked Rigatoni
Follow these instructions to make the best baked rigatoni:
1. Get everything ready. Set out the ingredients, and measure out the ones that need measuring. Then, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Saute. Saute the onions and garlic for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Then, add the ground beef and sausage. Brown the meat thoroughly, breaking it apart as you cook it. It should take about 10 minutes. Then, drain the excess grease and fat.
3. Add the sauce and seasonings. Add the marinara, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Simmer it until the sauce is thick (about 10-15 minutes).
4. Cook the pasta. While the sauce is thickening, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain it when it’s ready.
5. Combine. Pour the drained pasta into the sauce, and toss well.
6. Bake. Transfer the rigatoni and sauce to the greased baking dish. Top it with mozzarella, then cover it with foil. Bake it for 20 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake it for another 10-15 minutes. (As long as it takes to melt the cheese.)
7. Rest and serve. Remove the baked rigatoni from the oven. Let it rest in its dish for 5 minutes. Then, slice, serve, and enjoy!
Tips for the Best Baked Rigatoni
Use penne pasta if you don’t have rigatoni in your pantry. It has a similar shape and texture and will taste primarily the same.
Keep that in mind, as well as these few other tips:
- Don’t dump the entire bottle of marinara in the recipe. Some people like less sauce, while others prefer more. Add only half the jar if you don’t enjoy a lot of sauce. Then, add a little more at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
- Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the instructions say. It’ll continue to cook in the oven, and you don’t want it to get too soft.
- Add a garnish. Garnish it with freshly chopped basil or parsley for aesthetics. (And a refreshing burst of flavor!)
- Don’t toss the meat too much. Let it sit and have time to brown.
- Broil the rigatoni for the last minute. Doing so will brown the cheese on top, which makes the dish taste divine.
Keep these variations in mind:
- Make it leaner. Use ground turkey in the recipe instead of ground beef. Or stick to 90% lean ground beef. Eliminate the sausage, and add some extra veggies instead.
- Add veggies. Even if you don’t want a leaner dish, you can still add veggies. Zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms are all excellent ideas.
- Make it cheese-heavy. Mozzarella isn’t the only cheese that tastes great in this recipe. Try adding provolone, ricotta, or parmesan for more flavor.
- Leave out the dairy. Purchase a dairy-free cheese or simply leave out the cheese.
- Experiment with add-ins. Try different seasonings, some red pepper flakes for heat, or even a splash of red wine. It’s your recipe, and you can tweak it however you like.
Make Ahead and Storage
Baked rigatoni is an excellent make-ahead meal for meal prepping. It also stores and freezes well. Check out the following sections for more info.
Storing and Freezing Leftovers
If you have leftovers, you have two options: the fridge or the freezer. Here are directions for both:
- Refrigerator. Cover the leftovers with plastic wrap (or a lid), and place them in the fridge. They should last for up to 4 days. Reheat the entire dish of leftovers in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. You can also microwave individual portions for 1-2 minutes.
- Freezer. Freeze your leftovers in a tightly foiled-wrapped freezer-safe dish. They should last for 2-3 months. Defrost them in the refrigerator overnight. Then, let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before reheating them in the oven at 350 degrees.
To make this dish ahead of time, follow all the instructions on the recipe card below. Stop before baking, and wrap the dish tightly in aluminum foil.
Keep it in the fridge for up to 48 hours or in the freezer for 3 months. Bake the chilled dish according to the recipe card below. However, you’ll need to add 2-3 minutes of extra baking time.
Let the frozen dish thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, let it come to room temperature for 1 hour before baking it according to the directions.
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