Best-Ever Baked Rigatoni
Best-Ever Baked Rigatoni

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Baked Rigatoni is full of zesty meat, tender noodles and lots of cheese! Super simple and incredibly delicious, this is the ultimate comfort food!

Turn this hearty dish into a wonderful meal and serve it with some of my favorite sides: cheesy garlic bread, asparagus with bacon and Italian chopped salad!

Baked rigatoni being spooned out of a bowl.

Baked Rigatoni

Baked Rigatoni is like taking the best parts of lasagna and spaghetti and putting them together. What you get is a magical hearty, cheesy dish! Everyone loves baked rigatoni! With tons of cheese, zesty marinara sauce and tender noodles, it is just so good! This is truly one of those comfort foods that fills you up both tummy and soul! Baked rigatoni is a meal everyone loves to come home to and will readily devour.

Rigatoni is named for the noodles typically used in this Italian dish. Rigatoni noodles are large, round, and have ridges that help to hold in all that saucy goodness. They are a larger hollow noodle too which makes it wonderful as will fill with the meaty sauce and cheese. Do not get it confused with ziti which is smaller and does not have ridges or penne which is cut on a diagonal. Baked Rigatoni makes a large amount, so come hungry!

What You Need For Rigatoni

Amazing ingredients on their own, combine to create an incredible homecooked Italian dish. Check out the recipe card for exact measurements!

  • Rigatoni: Cook the pasta al dente for best results.
  • Olive Oil: The perfect oil to cook with for this Italian dish.
  • Small Onion: Finely chopped, to add texture and a tasty punch of flavor!
  • Garlic: Minced to add delicious savory flavor throughout the rigatoni.
  • Ground Beef: I went for lean ground beef.
  • Ground Sausage: Using Italian sausage adds a nice bit of spice and flavor.
  • Italian Seasoning: A great combination of spices and herbs.
  • Salt and Pepper: Add to taste.
  • Marinara: Use your favorite jarred sauce or even better make your own, it is so easy and delicious!
  • Mozzarella: Use freshly shredded mozzarella over pre-shredded.
  • Parmesan: Finely grated for an extra sprinkle of savory flavor!
  • Chopped Basil: This is optional but adds great flavor. I love topping homemade Italian dishes with fresh herbs!

Making Baked Rigatoni Pasta

You cook the meat and onions and sauce all in the same pan. It makes cleanup a breeze! Baked rigatoni is the easy weeknight dinner you’ve been looking for.

  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside. In a large pot bring water to a boil and cook the rigatoni according to package directions.
  2. Saute Vegetables: In a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat add the olive oil, onions and garlic. Saute until tender.
  3. Brown Meat: Add in the ground beef and sausage and cook and crumble until no longer pink.
  4. Simmer the Sauce: Add in the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, and marinara sauce. Reduce heat and let simmer.
  5. Drain Pasta: Drain the pasta and then return to the large pot. Add the meat sauce to the pot and stir until combined.
  6. Layer: Spread half of the pasta in the bottom of your 9×13 inch dish. Then layer with half of the pasta.
  7. Repeat: Layer with half of the cheeses. Repeat with remaining pasta and cheese.
  8. Bake: Cover with aluminum foil and then bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until bubbly.
Making the meaty sauce and adding the noodles and cheese for Rigatoni.

Tips For The Best Baked Rigatoni

Rigatoni is a simple dish, but you can jazz it up with these few simple tips.

  • Noodles: Rigatoni is the noodle of choice for this casserole, but you can use other noodles in a pinch. Try to use similar type of noodle. For example rotini, penne, fusilli or large shell pasta. Whichever noodle you use cook the noodles al dente. This helps the noodles absorb the sauce.
  • Fresh Cheese: It is best if you can shred your own cheese, it will melt much easier and taste better. Pre-shredded cheese often comes with anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting the same and can alter the taste.
  • Meat: You can use extra lean ground beef so it isn’t overly greasy. If you find you have a lot of grease in the pan after you cook it. Remove the meat and drain the grease into a can or something you can throw away once the grease has solidified. Do not pour the grease down the sink. It is bad for your pipes. Then back in the meat and continue as directed.
  • Add a little Heat: You can make your baked rigatoni a bit more zesty by using a spicy Italian sausage, or you can add red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Add Vegetables: This is a great dish to add vegetables to or hide them in. Zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, or spinach.

Baked rigatoni in a white bowl.

Make Ahead and Freeze!

This is one of those amazing recipes that you can make ahead of time and it will actually taste better after it has sit and the flavors have melded together.

  • Make Ahead: Make the baked rigatoni according to directions but do not bake it. Tightly cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking. Let the 9×13 pan sit for about 20 min before baking.
  • Freeze: If you want to you can even freeze the rigatoni before it is baked or after for up to 3 months. If you don’t bake it let it thaw overnight in the fridge or on the counter for a few hours. Bake as directed, checking to make sure it is done in the middle. It may need more time. If you have baked it, simply thaw and reheat in the oven or microwave.
  • Leftovers: This makes a large dish, so you can feed a crowd or have leftovers. I have to say leftovers taste even better than when it is fresh. There is just something about Italian food that is always better the second day. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave.

Two plates with baked rigatoni.

More Pasta Dishes to Fall in Love With

Pasta is one of the best comfort foods there is, it’s filling, and incredibly versatile. Combine it with all sorts of different sauces and meats to create marvelous dishes! Pasta comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes and is so fun to cook with. So when you need a pasta fix reach for some of these divine recipes, they are all delectable.

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Originally posted March 14, 2021
Updated on September 13, 2023

Calories: 906kcalCarbohydrates: 61gProtein: 58gFat: 46gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 167mgSodium: 1144mgPotassium: 726mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 648IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 530mgIron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Alyssa Rivers

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