Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta)

Pasta al Forno is a baked pasta casserole everyone will love. This easy recipe for baked rigatoni has tomato sauce, cheese, and more for a great dinner.  It is a comfort food Italian classic dish.  The pasta is tossed in a homemade garlic basil tomato sauce that is rich and comforting. Pasta al forno is then layered with creamy melty mozzarella and topped with nutty sharp parmesan.  It all bakes in the oven to come together into one gooey cheesy pasta recipe that is pure magic. 

Whether you call this baked rigatoni, pasta al forno, pasta alla forno, or pasta casserole, this recipe is an Italian staple.  It is best to make this with rigatoni as it is a thick hearty pasta with ridges that works great baking and holds the sauce and cheese.  However, you could in a pinch also make it with other pasta shapes and try pasta al forno with penne, fusilli, mostaccioli, bowties, or other macaroni.  I think spaghetti or angel hair al forno would work too but I would be very careful to cook the pasta al dente and bake it in the oven for a shorter amount of time as it may get too mushy. 

 

 

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) PN1 a plate with pasta and the casserole dish in the background

 

 

Ingredients for Pasta al Forno

Traditional Italian ingredients are what it takes to make this baked pasta dish.  Pasta al forno is made with a thick hearty tube pasta like rigatoni.  There is also crushed tomatoes, garlic, and spices for the tomato sauce.  This is a meatless pasta dish so added vegetables help add flavor and variety to the dish.  Lastly, you need the mozzarella for that cheesy bubbly layer that is the magic of pasta alla forno. 

Many traditional al forno recipes include meat but this is a vegetarian version. The tomato sauce is cooked with garlic and vegetables to add texture and heartiness for a satisfying baked pasta casserole.   No one will miss the meat and you can always serve it with sausage, meatballs, or chicken if you want. 

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) ingredients in bowls

 

 

How to Make Pasta al Forno

To make pasta al forno you will need to do a few steps.  The key to making this recipe is making the tomato sauce, cooking the pasta, and then layering it all together.  To start gather your ingredients and then begin by making the homemade tomato sauce. 

Make the Vegetable Tomato Sauce

In a medium-sized pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook everything until the vegetables are soft and cooked, for 10 more minutes.

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) oil and veggies in the pot ready to cook with small bowls of spices to the side

 

 

Next, add the spices and stir to combine. Gently pour in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Turn the sauce down to low to simmer. Let this cook down while the pasta cooks and the oven preheats.

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) cooked vegetables in the pot with the spices added to the top

 

Cook the Rigatoni 

Heat water on high heat in a large stockpot to cook the pasta in. Once it is boiling, add the rigatoni to the water and turn to medium to cook. Cook the pasta until al dente. You do not want to overcook the pasta since it will cook again while baking. You do not want mushy pasta. Drain pasta when ready and set aside.

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) pasta being added to boiling water

 

Once the pasta is cooked and the tomato sauce is ready, preheat the oven to 350°.  Next, grate the mozzarella into shreds. Also, grate the parmesan over a fine grater.

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) pasta cooked and tomato sauce ready in pots

 

Add the tomato sauce mixture to the pasta. Stir to combine.

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) pouring sauce over the cooked rigatoni

 

Layering and Baking Pasta al Forno

Prepare the 2 1/2 quart-sized casserole dish with some nonstick cooking spray. Once the sauce and pasta are ready, begin layering.

Start by adding 1/2 of the sauce and pasta mixture to the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering the remaining pasta and cheese. Finally, top by sprinkling on the grated parmesan.

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) casserole dish with a layer of sauced pasta and mozzarella be sprinkled over it

 

How Long to Bake Pasta al Forno 

Bake in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove carefully from the oven. Let the pasta rest for a few minutes so the cheese is not too hot when you bite into it.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley and additional parmesan if desired. Serve in pasta bowls. Enjoy!

The garlic and basil sauce should be warm and tangy. The pasta will be firm and soft but still, have plenty of firmness. All held together perfectly with the creamy melted mozzarella and topped with nutty parmesan.  Pasta al forno really is the perfect bite of pasta. 

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) overhead of casserole dish baked and ready to eat

 

 

What to Serve with Pasta al Forno

These Italian recipes all go well with pasta.  If you want a side dish, fresh-baked bread, or a meat entree, all of these recipes are great to serve with pasta al forno.  

 

Rice and Fava Bean Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
The best spring salad of rice and fresh fava beans. It is tossed with lemon vinaigrette & topped with scallions and lemon zest for a bright pop of flavor.
Check out this recipe
Rice and Fava Beans Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

 

Ciabatta Bread
Homemade rustic Italian bread has a crispy crust and a tender chewy inside.
Check out this recipe
Ciabatta featured

 

Italian Chicken Drumsticks
This recipe for authentic Italian chicken drumsticks is bursting with flavor thanks to an easy lemon, garlic, and herb marinade.
Check out this recipe
Italian Chicken Drumsticks

 

Instant Pot Italian Sausage & Peppers
Instant Pot Italian sausage and peppers is a quick & easy recipe. They are great for sandwiches or as is for the best keto, low-carb, or gluten-free meal. This Instant Pot sausage and pepper recipe is done in one pot and is complete in just 20-minutes. 
Check out this recipe
Instant Pot Italian Sausage & Peppers featured overhead of plate with sausage and peppers

 

Can you Make-Ahead or Freeze Pasta al Forno?

Pasta al forno is a great make-ahead meal.  You can assemble this pasta casserole and bake it layer. Store it in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours before cooking.  If baking pasta al forno later, add 10-15 minutes to the original cook time since it will be cold from the fridge.  It is great for meal planning or preparing to give to someone like new moms, neighbors, those not feeling well, or potlucks. Anyone that would love a vegetarian home-cooked meal, pasta al forno is a lovely casserole to give them. 

It also freezes well both before or after baking.  You can freeze pasta al forno by wrapping the casserole dish tightly with plastic wrap. Then add an extra layer of foil or the lid that comes with your casserole dish.  It can be frozen for up to 2 months.  Before warming up to eat later, defrost in the refrigerator for 2 days.  Then bake at 350* for 30 minutes if at room temperature or for 40-45 minutes if chilled from the fridge. 

 

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Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta) featured overhead plate for recipe card

Pasta al Forno (Baked Pasta)

Angela
Pasta al Forno is a baked pasta casserole everyone will love. This easy recipe for baked rigatoni has tomato sauce, cheese, and more for a great dinner.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6

Equipment

  • 2 1/2 Quart Casserole Dish

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup onion small dice
  • 1/2 cup celery small dice
  • 1/3 cup carrot small dice
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil OR 2 Tablespoons fresh basil torn
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 # rigatoni
  • 3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • fresh parsley & additional parmesan optional toppings

Instructions
 

  • In a medium-sized saucepot add heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook everything until the vegetables are soft and cooked, for 10 more minutes.
  • Next, add the spices and stir to combine. Gently pour in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Turn the sauce down to low to simmer. Let this cook down while the pasta cooks and the oven preheats.
  • Heat water on high heat in a large stockpot to cook the pasta in. Once it is boiling, add the rigatoni to the water and turn to medium to cook. Cook the pasta until al dente. You do not want to overcook the pasta since it will cook again while baking. You do not want mushy pasta. Drain pasta when ready and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Grate the mozzarella into shreds. Also, grate the parmesan over a fine grater.
  • Add the tomato sauce mixture to the pasta. Stir to combine.
  • Prepare the 2 1/2 quart-sized casserole dish with some nonstick cooking spray. Once the sauce and pasta are ready, begin layering.
    Start by adding 1/2 of the sauce and pasta mixture to the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering the remaining pasta and cheese. Finally, top by sprinkling on the grated parmesan.
  • Bake in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.
  • Remove carefully from the oven. Let rest a few minutes so the cheese is not too hot. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and additional parmesan if desired. Serve in pasta bowls. Enjoy!

Notes

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving  
Calories 454
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 4.8g 24%
Cholesterol 73mg 24%
Sodium 749mg 33%
Total Carbohydrate 63.2g 23%
Dietary Fiber 5.4g 19%
Total Sugars 1.6g  
Protein 21.4g  
Vitamin D 0mcg 0%
Calcium 240mg 18%
Iron 6mg 32%
Potassium 908mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Keyword baked, casserole, cheese, easy, freezes well, Italian, make ahead, noodle, oven-baked, pasta, Spring, vegetarian, pasta, healthy

 

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