Baked Rigatoni Pasta with Ground Beef – is an easy, cheesy dinner recipe where rigatoni pasta is layered with meat sauce then topped with loads and loads of cheese and baked until the top turns golden brown and there is gorgeous bubbling cheese from the sides!
You can't really blame a person for making casserole every day. When you have such flavorful recipes on your plate that actually saves you so much time, then why would you not want to make them.
I totally agree with the Mamas who choose casseroles over any other dinner recipes. Not only does this feed the crowd but it also makes a huge hit amongst kids. In fact, my kids are a huge huge fan of baked rigatoni.
After all who isn't right? Just this one big dish of casserole, served along with a creamy Mediterranean Salad or Onion Cucumber Salad and some No yeast Dinner Rolls and I am all set. The crowd is gonna love love love this!
You know, I love Baked Ziti. In fact, I had been craving for this for the longest time.
Yesterday night, I baked this and it felt so good!
Baked Ziti is my definition of comforting Saturday night dinner or the perfect start to weekend dinner on Friday night, with the kids, watching our favorite TV Shows. 🙂
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What is Rigatoni?
Rigatoni is a tubular form of pasta with round edges and long vertical stripes across the body. Unlike Penne Pasta the ends of this pasta noodles are not pointy. But, sometimes we might not find rigatoni at our local stores. In that case, I would suggest you use Penne.
The four Basic Ingredients or Pillars of an Excellent Baked Rigatoni
Ground Beef – Well, well, well! I have had enough of this. Some say you should use ground turkey, some say you should use Italian sausages while some say – go with cooked chicken. Honestly, all three are excellent options. I mean it. I have tried it! But, there is something so comforting about ground beef casseroles right?
So, my version of classic Baked Rigatoni has to have ground beef. Point blank period. However, sometimes when I am in a mood to give my taste buds something different I often make a mix of Italian sausages with ground beef. Umm! It's so so so GOOD!
Sauce – I would always suggest you use homemade Marinara sauce. But, in case you haven’t got the time to make it at the moment you can always use a store-bought one.
Rigatoni – Of Course you can substitute Rigatoni with Penne. But, I would say what Ross said to Racheal when she found out that he had been making a list about her Pros and Cons – It's just she’s not rigatoni.
Mozzarella Cheese – Always shred your mozzarella. Adding layers and Layers of Mozzarella cheese would make it cheesy, tasty, and just the way you would want it to be. So, make sure you be generous while adding the cheese.
How to Make Baked Rigatoni Pasta with Ground Beef from scratch?
First cook your rigatoni pasta. First, boil it in some water. In the meantime, break your ground beef so that they are in crumbles. Now, add some onions and cook them until soft. Add some minced garlic cloves, and season it with some salt, pepper, and (rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, and some sage which we also call)– the Italian seasoning.
Add the marinara sauce and cook it well.
Now your pasta will be ready. So take a pan, add some canola oil and stir fry the pasta until with some marinara sauce. This is an optional step but makes the rigatoni much more flavorful. Then just layer them up. I have a special trick of layering which I am gonna share with y’all. It will make it so much better.
Base Layer – Tomato Sauce, then Rigatoni pasta, then Some Meat sauce,
Second - then some Mozzarella (this is where I would ask you to add Ricotta if you want), then Meat sauce, then some dried crushed Basil (you know for that extra Italian flavor).
FINAL - Then add another layer of Mozzarella, then again Rigatoni, another layer of meat sauce, and lastly some more Mozzarella!
Finally, when it's done, garnish with some parsley and some Parmesan cheese and you are ready to eat.
Let’s Talk Taste:
Honestly, the first word that comes to my mind when someone says taste after having this, I am like – Cheesy! If it were in my hand, I would change the word tasty for cheesy because, in my dictionary, tasty means cheesy! And this Baked rigatoni is just that. A hearty meal for a crowd that they are gonna love.
What are the other possible variations of this recipe?
- Ground Turkey – In case you are bored with ground beef you can use some ground turkey or turkey sausages in place of ground beef. You could also use some chicken if you want. It is equally satisfying.
- Veggies – Some people like to add a lot of veggies in it. So, either add some frozen spinach (wash it and then squeeze out the water completely) or some Mushrooms or olives or Sundried tomatoes, etc.
- Ricotta – Adding one layer of ricotta would make it taste so so so GOOD! In fact, if I would’ve had ricotta at home, I would definitely add it after adding the rigatoni over the tomato sauce base. Of course, I would add some oil and some salt and pepper into it and then add it.
- Spinach - It not necessary that you need vegetarian casserole to use Spinach. You can always add some spinach to bring a nice texture in your casserole. If you are using frozen spinach, then first wash them up real nice, then squeeze the water with your hands. Then throw them in the pan and get them cooking!
- Tomatoes – Adding some tomatoes while cooking ground beef is another trick to give your recipe a classic taste.
- Cayenne Pepper – Though I have used smoked Paprika. But, I would highly recommend you to use some cayenne pepper while cooking ground beef. Yes! It will spice it up. So, don’t overdo it. Maybe just a pinch. But, that is actually the secret of an excellent baked rigatoni.
How to Freeze Baked Rigatoni?
Baked Rigatoni can be frozen for up to 2 months. So, when you want to make it ahead of time, just layer it as you would do and then cover it up with a plastic wrap and then another Almunium Wrap. Make sure there is no air that gets into the baking tray. Our job is to keep it away from air. So, cover it up real nice. Then keep it in the freezer. But make sure your oven is freezer-to-oven friendly. In case, it's not you will have to let it come down to room temperature, transfer it to an oven-friendly dish, before you pop it in the oven.
When you are ready to eat, bake it in a 350F preheated oven for up to 50-60 minutes. You got to give it some more time (about 10-15 minutes more) than you would normally do because it was frozen for so long. Also, do keep an eye on it. We want to bake it until we see the cheese bubbling on top and slightly golden brown. And, that's it. Your Baked Rigatoni is ready!
Baked Rigatoni Pasta with Ground Beef
- 1 lb Rigatoni Pasta around 500g or 16oz
- 1 lb Ground Beef 90% Lean
- 1 Large Onion finely chopped
- 5-7 cloves Garlic minced
- 4 Cup Marinara Sauce
- ½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper or as per taste
- 1 teaspoon Salt or as per taste
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 2 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 3 Cups Mozzarella Cheese or more if you want
- 8 oz Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon Dried Basil
- 3 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese optional
- ½ Cup Parsley Finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350F or 180C. Grease a 9x13" pan with cooking spray.
- Boil about two cups of water and add some salt in it. Add Rigatoni Pasta and cook until just al dente.
- In the meantime, heat Olive Oil in a skillet. As the oil shimmers add the Ground Beef and cook Ground beef until crumbly and no longer pink. Add chopped onions and minced garlic. Cook until the onions have become soft. Add Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, Ground Cumin, Dried Basil, salt, and pepper.
- Pour a cup of Marinara Sauce to the cooking meat sauce toss to combine and let it simmer for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Keep it aside.
- After the pasta is cooked drain the water, keep a cup of water from the pasta saved and mix it with your meat sauce.
- Heat another pan with some olive oil and throw in the pasta. Add in 2 cups of Marinara Sauce and toss it until it gets completely coated. Keep aside.
- In a 9x13" baking tray smear some tomato sauce and follow it up with a layer of Rigatoni Pasta mixture then with another layer of Mozzarella, then with a layer of meat sauce, followed by some dried basils, some more Mozzarella cheese, then add another layer of Pasta, a final layer of the meat sauce and eventually top with some more shredded Mozzarella Cheese and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.
- Bake your casserole covered for 20-minutes at 350F or 180C. And then bake uncovered for 10 more minutes. Once you see the cheese bubbling on the sides and the top turning crusty with patches of light golden brown its a sign that your casserole is done. [OPTIONAL] Top it with some freshly chopped parsley. Enjoy!