This Rich and Delicious Baked Rigatoni provides all the flavor of Sunday lasagna at a weeknight pace. Easy to double when cooking for a crowd.
We’re having a family love affair with rigatoni right now. Something about those big round noodles just begs for hearty sauces and rich meaty flavors. We love it with sausage and kale, adore it with a mushroom-heavy bolognese and, when we’re craving lasagna flavors on a weeknight, we bake it up casserole style in this amazing Rich and Delicious Baked Rigatoni dish.
This dish has essentially replaced lasagna in our meal rotation because its much easier to assemble. Its also a nice choice if you have any picky, cheese averse eaters in the house (Lilly doesn’t like anything too cheesy). Even though there’s a pretty good portion of ricotta mixed in, it basically melts into the sauce in a way that adds rich flavor without the gooey texture she dislikes. Its also easy to limit the amount of mozzarella you layer in or omit it altogether from a corner or two if need be.
Even better, this recipe is easy to double and it reheats well, which is a huge bonus for me. A couple of times a month, I volunteer for a ministry through our church that provides meals to families in need — during times of illness or after the birth of a new baby. We received meals from the group when I was struggling with postpartum depression after Max was born so I know how important those meals can be to recipients. In addition to my slow cooker pork tacos recipe, this rigatoni dish is my go-to on nights that I’m cooking for another family. Its the ultimate comfort food, so it seems like the perfect meal to share with folks who need comforting. By adding a loaf of garlic bread, a Cesar salad kit and some Italian cookies, I feel like I’m providing a complete meal without much extra fuss.
The key to whipping this up weeknight-fast is to make the sauce in advance. Typically, when I make homemade spaghetti sauce, I prepare a double batch anyway, so this works out well. You can also throw it together in the slow cooker in the morning and finish it at night. Of course, a good quality store-bought pasta sauce works as well. From there its just a matter of mixing together your cooked pasta, prepared sauce and ricotta, adding a layer of mozzarella and baking it all to melty, golden perfection. Awesome for cold, drizzly nights and even better in a lunchbox thermos the next day. Cold weather perfection.
Rich and Delicious Baked Rigatoni
Serves 4-6 and doubles easily
1 recipe Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce
1 pound best quality rigatoni pasta
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1 8 oz. ball fresh mozzarella cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9×11″ casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, draining water about 1 minute before it reaches “al dente.”
- While pasta is cooking, combine four cups of spaghetti sauce with the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses in a very large bowl. Stir until the mixture is well mixed. Add pasta and toss to coat.
- Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Tear off small pieces of mozzarella and spread about half of it evenly over the pasta. Add the rest of the pasta mixture and top the the remainder of the mozzarella cheese.
- Place casserole dish in the center of preheated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. If desired, switch oven broil for final 3 minutes of cooking to melt the cheese to golden brown.
- Remove casserole from oven and allow to stand for five minutes before serving. Serve hot. Any remaining sauce can be reheated and served alongside or reserved for another use.