Baked pasta is undoubtedly one of those universally comforting dishes. While there are more elaborate and “authentic” versions out there, I’m sure you can think of some standout classics like lasagna or Pastitsio, this is not one of them. The kind of authenticity this dish has is that of a South Philly Italian pizza and pasta joint. The servings are generously portioned, and some would say there is too much cheese, I say just enough.
It’s a pretty classic baked pasta dish with a quick meat sauce. Notice that I emphasized “quick” because this isn’t a slow-cooked Sunday gravy or a fancy Ragu situation. It’s more like the kind of sauce you’d find in a cafeteria lunch, quick and made shortly before being served, and personally, I had the best cafeteria food while growing up (so I say that with complete sincerity). The sauce consists of tomatoes, onions and ground meat. It’s layered with ricotta cheese before being generously topped with Parmesan. Correction: showered with parmesan. And once it’s baked to golden, bubbly perfection, it’s ready to be devoured.
One of the reasons I love this dish is how quick it is to make, in terms of active cooking time. This means you can easily whip it up on a weeknight. Additionally, it’s a breeze to scale up if you need to make larger portions. Double or even triple the recipe (I dare you!) and freeze the extra servings. Your future self will be incredibly impressed with your foresight. Moreover, it fulfills all the comforting aspects one seeks in a baked pasta dish, and contains all the essential food groups: pasta, meat, cheese – there’s lots of it.Jump to Recipe
The kind of authenticity this dish has is that of a South Philly Italian pizza and pasta joint. The servings are generously portioned, and some would say there is too much cheese, I say just enough.
Baked Rigatoni with Ricotta and Meat Sauce
- 1 Baking Dish roughly 9 x 13"
- 1 lb rigatoni
- 1 lb ground beef
- 28 oz canned tomatoes crushed or whole
- 1 onion diced
- 15 oz ricotta
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated, reserve 1/4 C for serving
- olive oil
- In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and diced onions together. Season with salt and pepper. If you have an excess of grease (it will depend on the fat percentage of your ground beef) you can drain some off. Add in the tomatoes, crush them if you’re using whole tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 20 mins on medium heat. Make sure to season to taste.
- While the sauce is simmering, get your oven preheated to 350°F (175°C) and also bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt your water and cook your pasta about 3/4 of the full cook time. These oversized rigatoni were labeled as taking 12 minutes to cook, so I only cooked them for around 8 minutes. Drain your pasta.
- Toss drained pasta with sauce and transfer to a large baking dish. Top with generous dollops of ricotta cheese, sprinkle with 1/4 C grated parmesan and a good drizzle of olive oil.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 30mins. Remove foil and broil till cheese is golden and bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool for 10mins. Then top with more grated parm and eat up!