Cheesy pasta is such a sensational treat and the best way to have it is in a bake. There is nothing like pulling that baking dish out of the oven and smelling that savory aroma of Italian seasonings. When you run your fork down, breaking that golden crust and cutting off a slice of delicious baked pasta, nothing else in the world matters. At least, that’s the way I feel about my incredible cheesy rigatoni pasta bake.
Cheesy Rigatoni Pasta Bake
My choice of rigatoni is key because I believe it is the perfect way to start this delicious recipe. Here are some tips to help you before you begin.
What is Rigatoni?
Rigatoni, like most Italian pasta, has a name that means something in regard to its shape or structure. In this case, it comes from the Italian word Rigato, which literally means ridged. Rigatoni is thus characterized by its ridged, or grooved surface.
It’s also a tubular pasta (which was “totally radical” back in the 80s). However, that doesn’t distinguish it all together from some other types of pasta. Most notably, ziti and penne pasta.
What’s the Difference Between Rigatoni, Ziti, and Penne?
There are pastas similar to rigatoni and they can usually be interchanged depending on your preference for texture and appearance. In subtle ways, there are other important factors such as size and cut.
For example, penne is very different from rigatoni but they are very similar in the fact that they are both tubed pasta and penne can have ribs like rigatoni. Normal penne is smooth.
Both types have diagonal cuts at the ends. This differs from rigatoni which is cut at straight angles. Penne is also shorter and smaller than rigatoni.
Ziti is another type of pasta that is most often confused with rigatoni. The contributing factor here is that it can be virtually identical to rigatoni. However, traditional ziti has more in common with penne.
The main difference is that it is larger. However, when cut straight as ziti can sometimes be ziti rigatoni very closely resembles rigatoni aside from the fact that it is somewhat smaller. All three of these tube-shaped pastas can be interchanged according to taste.
Can You Cook Plain Pasta In the Oven?
A common question about pasta is whether you can cook it in the oven without boiling it first. The answer is yes, but it requires a little bit of insurance.
First, you need moisture. You can bake pasta in sauce and it will cook as it soaks in all the yumminess. However, this is a very long process, which is why most recipes have you do some of the work beforehand by partially cooking the pasta before finishing it off in the oven.
If you don’t want to boil the pasta before baking, you can use another trick. Soaking your pasta in a bowl of salted water will do the same thing without requiring you to watch over a boiling pot or worry about overcooking.
This process also preseason the pasta and allows you to strain out the starch before mixing in the other ingredients for your rigatoni pasta bake. The whole soaking process takes about as long as it takes for the oven to preheat up to 45 minutes. It’s not a perfect solution in every case, but it’s a good alternative to using the burner and dirtying another pot..
Should You Cover a Pasta Bake?
If you want moist pasta bake that you can break apart and chew easily, then absolutely. Cooking pasta uncovered in the oven can dry it out. However, to get a golden crust which is often desirable, but not always, you should cook the pasta uncovered.
Most pasta dishes are best when they are tender on the inside with a nice crust on the outside. That’s why this recipe has you start the rigatoni pasta bake with a cover of aluminum foil and then remove the foil for the last few minutes. This lets you get a crust on top without drying the rest of the pasta out.
Another good tip if you plan on cooking your pasta uncovered, or if you discover you are out of foil, is to use more sauce. Extra sauce in the baking dish will help the pasta to retain moisture as the top gets crusty. Using a convection oven instead of a conventional oven also helps if you cook your pasta uncovered.
How Long Do You Boil Pasta Before Baking?
The conventional way to prepare pasta for baking is to boil it but only let it cook partially. If you boil it too long it will break apart and get mushy in the oven. Since it is cooking in the oven as well, you need to reduce the boiling time to balance it out.
You can cook it just to al dente and then add it to the sauce. Most pasta boxes give you two cooking times: one for al dente and one for more tender pasta. If you are not using a timer, you can pull out the pasta as soon as it is cooked enough to wrap around your stir spoon.
You can microwave pasta to cook it, but it doesn’t save time. It’s about the same. Although you don’t have to wait for the water to boil, you do need to add a few minutes to the cooking time which makes it a wash. However, if you have no burner or the burners are in use, microwaving is another alternative when pre-cooking pasta for your rigatoni pasta bake, or just any pasta dish you want to make.
To slightly undercook the pasta in the microwave before baking, start with the instructions on the box for boiling. Use the time given for more tender pasta.
When the timer is done, stir the pasta to check for tenderness. If it is not tender enough continue microwaving 30 seconds at a time. Remember not to overcook the pasta or let it get too tender if you plan on baking it in sauce next.
Add Ingredients needed to make Cheesy Rigatoni Pasta Bake
- Ground beef
- Hot Italian sausage
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato paste
- Diced tomatoes
- Ricotta cheese
- Parmesan cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Rigatoni pasta
(Actual measurements in the recipe card below.)
How to make Cheesy Rigatoni Pasta Bake
- Preheat oven to 350º and lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with a nonstick cooking spray.
- In a large skillet or frying pan, brown ground beef, Italian sausage, and onions until meat is thoroughly cooked and onions are translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
- Drain grease ad return to pan.
- Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir.
- Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce heat and simmer while pasta is cooking.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta, rinse, and place back in pot.
- Add meat mixture to pasta and stir.
- Spoon half meat sauce mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
- Next, add ricotta cheese by spoonful on top of cheese and spread to cover. Sprinkle parmesan cheese.
- Add remaining eat mixture followed by the remaining cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
- Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Carefully remove from oven and enjoy with a side salad and garlic bread.
Try This Delicious Cheesy Rigatoni Paste Bake Today
Here are a few more delicious recipes that can be found on the blog:
Cheesy Rigatoni Pasta Bake
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 15 oz cans tomato sauce
- 12 oz can tomato paste
- 1 15 oz can water
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 24 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 16 oz box rigatoni pasta
Preheat oven to 350º and lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with a nonstick spray.
In a large skillet or frying pan, brown ground beef, Italian sausage, and onions until meat is thoroughly cooked and onions are translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
Drain grease and return to pan.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir.
Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat and simmer while pasta is cooking.
Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Rinse and place back in pot.
Add meat mixture to pasta, stir.
Spoon half meat mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Next, add ricotta cheese by spoonful on top of cheese and spread to cover. Sprinkle parmesan cheese.
Add remaining meat mixture followed by the remaining cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Remove foil and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Carefully remove from oven and enjoy with a side salad and garlic bread.
Here are a few pics that are the perfect size for pinning to Pinterest.
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