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This Cheesy Baked Rigatoni is like a warm hug on a cold day. It’s easy to make, topped with gooey cheese, comforting and always a family favorite! Is there anything better than cheesy pasta? The whole family will love this one.
Let’s cook a super easy dinner!
Ingredients you will need to make Cheesy Baked Rigatoni
Five main ingredients are all that you’ll need to make this super easy cheesy rigatoni pasta bake! There are a few ingredient swaps and additions you can make depending on personal preference and what you have on hand.
- Rigatoni – You will need 16 ounces dry Rigatoni. Alternatively, you can use any other type of pasta that you have on hand including ziti or rotini.
- Italian Sausage- you will need about 1 pound of sweet Italian Sausage. Alternatively, you can use ground beef or ground turkey or omit the meat altogether for a vegetarian option
- Pasta Sauce or marinara sauce of choice – I use Rao’s Marinara sauce. You will need about 28 ounces of pasta sauce.
- Cream Cheese and Mozzarella Cheese – you could also add parmesan cheese if you have that on hand. You will need an 8 ounce package of softened cream cheese along with 16 ounces of mozzarella cheese that has been shredded. Mozzarella cheese that you have shredded yourself will melt a bit better but you can also use pre-shredded cheese if you wish.
- Seasonings – Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes along with salt and black pepper are the only seasonings that you’ll need. Feel free to adjust seasonings to taste.
How to make Cheesy Baked Rigatoni
I mentioned that this Cheesy Baked Rigatoni is a family favorite, easy recipe, and I truly mean it. This recipe couldn’t be easier to make and appears on our dinner table at least a couple of times per month.
- Begin by cooking your pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. Cook pasta to al dente because the pasta will finish cooking in the oven in the last step when you’ll be melting all of that delicious mozzarella cheese.
- Let’s make the meat sauce: Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. If you have an oven-safe skillet, use that. If not, that’s ok. You can always transfer the pasta to a casserole dish later on. When the olive oil is heated, add the ground meat whether you are using ground Italian Sausage, ground turkey or ground beef. Break apart the meat into bite sized pieces then season with Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Remember that red pepper flake does have a bit of heat to it, so omit this seasoning all together if you don’t like heat, or adjust it according to your preference. When the meat is browned and cooked through, remove the excess grease.
- While the meat cooks, shred the mozzarella cheese and cut the block of Philadelphia cream cheese into 8 chunks. This will allow it to melt and incorporate into the sauce a bit easier.
- After you’ve removed the excess grease from the meat mixture, pour in the pasta sauce along with the 8 ounces of cream cheese and simmer the sauce over medium heat until the sauce is heated through and the cream cheese is melted and incorporated into the sauce.
- Add in the cooked and drained rigatoni noodles and stir to combine the sauce with the noodles. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and place into a 350F oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. If you do not have an oven-safe skillet, transfer the pasta and sauce mixture to a 9×13 inch baking dish, then top with mozzarella cheese and bake.
FAQ and Tips and Tricks
Should I salt the pasta water? Yes! Adding salt to the pasta water is the only opportunity that you have to season the pasta noodles. I add about 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta. It sounds like a lot, but remember that you are adding it to the big pot of boiling pasta water. Add in the salt just before adding in the noodles to cook.
What if I don’t have an oven-safe skillet? If you do not have an oven safe skillet, you will want to transfer the pasta to a 9×13 inch baking dish before placing it in the oven.
Can I use reduced fat cream cheese? It is not recommended that you use reduced fat cream cheese or reduced fat mozzarella cheese. If you do not have cream cheese on hand, you could always sub ricotta cheese.
Cheese grater – This cheese grater is our favorite and really simplifies the process of shredding your own cheese. Plus, it eliminates any chance of cutting yourself with your handheld cheese grater! The handle makes it so much easier, not to mention the suction cup on the bottom really holds the shredder securely in place.
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What we love about this recipe and why you’ll love it too!
We love that this recipe comes together so quickly and requires minimal ingredients. Just a few ingredients is all that separates you from a truly delicious, satisfying and comforting dinner.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Dare I say that the leftovers taste even better? Once the rigatoni has had a chance to soak up all of the flavor and seasonings in the refrigerator, we think the leftovers taste even better!
More Pasta Recipes
If you love pasta as much as we do, you absolutely must try this Three Cheese Baked Rigatoni with chicken and mushrooms or this Spicy Chicken Rigatoni recipe. Another baked pasta recipe favorite in this house is this recipe for Easy Skillet Baked Ziti.
We hope you enjoy this recipe for Cheesy Baked Rigatoni!
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound rigatoni cooked al dente according to package directions
- 1 pound pound Italian Sausage, ground turkey or ground beef
- 28 ounces pasta sauce
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes
- 1 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flake
- 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Cook pasta to al dente, following package directions
- Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high/high heat. Add ground meat. Break apart meat into bite-sized pieces, season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flake.
- Cook the meat until meat is browned and cooked through. Remove excess grease.
- While the meat cooks, shred the mozzarella cheese.
- To the meat, add in pasta sauce along with 8 ounces cream cheese that has been softened and cut into cubes for easier melting.Simmer the sauce until it’s heated through and the cream cheese has melted.
- To the meat sauce, stir in cooked pasta and stir to combine.
- If using an oven-safe skillet, top with mozzarella cheese then bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. If not using an oven-safe skillet, transfer the noodle and meat sauce mixture to a 9×13 inch baking dish, then top with mozzarella cheese and bake.