This delicious and hearty Italian dish - Rigatoni Al Forno with Meat Sauce is an Italian classic and really easy to make. This step-by-step baked rigatoni recipe is perfect for any home cook and it is ready in just under an hour.
Rigatoni al forno means rigatoni that is baked in the oven. Pasta al forno in Italian means pasta that is baked in the oven 🙂 You may already know this or have tried my lasagne al forno where I explain this.
This rigatoni al forno is a dish that I grew up eating at every family gathering. It is a simple rustic Italian baked rigatoni that feeds a large group and it can be easily doubled to feed even more people.
My grandmother served either this dish or a baked gnocchi with cheese and tomato sauce for every holiday too. We would have a baked ham at Christmas and this baked rigatoni. At Thanksgiving, a roast turkey, and this baked rigatoni, and the same at Easter.
It is just the standard Italian fare that we would expect at any gathering when I was growing up 🙂
The great news is, this dish is really tasty and really easy to make. You don't need to serve it with your holiday dinner but you can if you want to!
Let me show you the steps to make this Italian-baked pasta so you can make it for your family and friends.
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What You Will Need
Most of the ingredients for this dish will be for the sauce. Here is a list (full quantities below):
- Ground beef: This meat sauce really makes this dish hearty. You can make this without meat if you prefer.
- Rigatoni: The star of the recipe. The rigatoni is the perfect pasta because the sauce clings to the ridges of the pasta and gets inside the tube shape.
- Fresh mozzarella: For the cheese topping. I prefer using fresh mozzarella in all of my baked Italian dishes. If you only have shredded mozzarella you can use that too.
- Parmesan Cheese: It is not pictured above but it is important for the cheesy topping. Try to make sure you use real Parmi
- Passata: Passata (Italian tomato sauce) really makes a smooth sauce and it is classic for this type of Italian recipe. If you cannot find this, crushed tomatoes work too.
- Sauce seasonings: These are fresh basil leaves, dried oregano, Kosher salt, fresh garlic, olive oil, and onion. If you have made my Italian meat sauce, it has the same base Italian flavors as that.
How to make Rigatoni Al Forno
Let me show you the steps to make this delicious baked pasta!
- Make the meat sauce: This is cooking up the meat in a large skillet then cooking down the aromatics and adding the tomatoes. You want to allow about 10 minutes for this sauce to lightly simmer so the flavors come together.
- Cook the pasta: You want to cook the pasta for a little less time than what the pasta manufacturer says for al dente since the pasta will continue cooking in the oven.
- Combine pasta and meat sauce: Once that pasta is cooked, add it to the meat sauce and stir to combine.
- Add to a baking dish: Pour the pasta and sauce into a large baking dish.
- Top with cheese: Top the pasta with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake: I always bake my pasta al forno dishes on the top rack of the oven. This allows the top cheese layer to get golden brown faster and not overcook the pasta itself. It also adds those delicious baked pasta corner pieces that people fight over in Italian families 🙂
Here are some of our best tips when making this dish so you have success every time you make it:
- Don't overcook the pasta: Make sure to cook the pasta a few minutes less than the manufacturer's instructions for al dente. It will cook more once it is in the oven and you do not want the pasta to get mushy.
- Do not add too much sauce: This recipe has the exact amount of sauce and the exact consistency you need for it. This is important to make sure the rigatoni al forno is not swimming in the sauce after it is done baking. That is not what you want. If you like lots of sauce, you can serve some on the side.
- Add in some ricotta for more cheese goodness! We didn't grow up eating this dish with ricotta but you can mix some into the pasta before baking if you like.
- Add in Italian besciamella: We like to add a thin layer of this Italian bechamel sauce when we have time. It goes right on top of the pasta before you add the cheese if you want to make it!
More Italian Dinner Ideas
If you want more delicious classic Italian dinner ideas, here are some ideas:
Perfect way to end the meal
Here are some of our favorite things to serve after this rigatoni al forno meal:
Rigatoni Al Forno with Meat Sauce
- 1 lb Ground beef I prefer 85% lean ground beef.
- 24 ounces Passata Sauce or crushed tomatoes
- ½ medium yellow onion diced very fine
- 2 cloves garlic diced very fine
- 1 ½ tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
Rigatoni al Forno
- 1 lb Rigatoni pasta
- 8 ounces Fresh mozzarella
- ½ cup Fresh Parmesan cheese
Make the meat sauce
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Add your olive oil.1 ½ tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Now add your red pepper flakes, onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes.½ medium yellow onion diced very fine, ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Remove onions from pot on to a plate and set aside.
- In the same pot, add your ground beef and brown on all sides making sure to break up the meat as much as possible while it cooks (about 5 minutes).1 lb Ground beef
- Add the onions back to the pot and mix in to the ground beef.
- Now add your garlic and cook for one more minute.2 cloves garlic diced very fine
- Add your tomatoes to the pot.24 ounces Passata Sauce
- Add your salt, oregano and basil and stir.2 fresh basil leaves, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
- Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Taste the sauce for any additional salt.
Rigatoni al Forno
- Cook rigatoni a few minutes less than al dente according to the manufacturer's instructions then drain.1 lb Rigatoni pasta
- Add to the sauce and mix well.
- Pour into a 9x11 baking dish.
- Top with both cheeses.8 ounces Fresh mozzarella, ½ cup Fresh Parmesan cheese
- Bake on the top rack of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and just starting to turn golden brown.
H2 - What is pasta al forno?
H2 - What is meant by al forno?