Whether you have a family to feed on a busy night or are new to cooking and want an easy and delicious meal, this bolognese pasta bake is the perfect choice.
A creamy hearty pasta dinner is something my family is always happy to indulge in. My usual goto dish is my one skillet spaghetti. It’s fast, easy and cheap to make.
Since my two eldest boys moved into their apartment, I have been helping them by developing new recipes that are easy to make and still freaking delicious. Because I kinda spoiled them growing up and now they miss Mama’s home cooking.
This bolognese pasta bake is for them. Cheap eats that is easy to make and tastes fabulous.
Why this recipe is so awesome
This pasta bake is super versatile. You can make a small batch for a couple of single guys to enjoy or double or triple the amount to feed a large family or crowd.
Prep everything a day or two before a party and bake it the night you are serving it. And leftovers? They taste fabulous. This pasta bake reheats beautifully, making it great to pack for lunch at work or dinner the next night.
The base sauce is created with the classic trio of onions, celery and carrots. Although ground beef is the traditional meat used for bolognese, I used spicy Italian sausage for even more flavor.
For the pasta I used rigatoni, but again, you can customize it by using other pasta varieties that you have on hand.
Everything is made in one pot, and if you use an oven safe pot, you can bake it in the same pot without transferring everything into a casserole dish.
I told you, oh so easy!
Ingredients you need
- Onion: Use a regular brown, white or yellow onion.
- Carrots and celery: These vegetable make the base for your bolognese.
- Italian sausage: You can use mild or hot Italian sausage or use ground beef, turkey or pork.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is preferred, but you can use garlic powder if you are in a pinch.
- Petite diced tomatoes: I like to use the petite diced tomatoes as they tend to melt easily into the bolognese sauce. You can also use crushed tomatoes.
- Rigatoni: You can also use other pasta shapes like penne, ziti or fusilli.
- Heavy cream: Bolognese has a bit of creaminess to the sauce. Heavy cream is thicker and preferred, but you can use regular milk or half and half.
- Parmesan: You can use regular parmesan or try asiago or pecorino romano.
- Mozzarella: You can use shredded mozzarella or slices of buffalo mozzarella.
- Pantry staples: Tomato paste, extra virgin olive oil, dried basil, dried parsley and salt.
1. In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, add olive oil and sauté chopped onions, carrot and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add Italian sausage and break it down with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking and browning the meat until cooked thru and in crumbled pieces.
3. Add salt and garlic, then cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste then add diced tomatoes, dried parsley and dried basil. Stir until combined and simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Raise temperature to high and add water and salt. Bring to boil. Once mixture is boiling, stir in pasta. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in heavy cream and parmesan.
6. Transfer to a casserole dish and spread pasta and sauce evenly.
7. Top with parmesan and mozzarella. Bake at 350ºF uncovered until bubbly top is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
Expert tips and recipe FAQs
You can assemble the whole thing in advance or just start the sauce. Just cover and refrigerate it until you are ready to finish cooking and assembling.
Another option is freezing your pasta bake. You can freeze leftovers individually or the whole casserole dish itself. Once cooled completely, transfer to a freezer safe container, seal and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months.
To reheat, thaw overnight for larger portions and microwave until hot.
Keep it simple by serving as is or with a green salad or some steamed vegetables.
Most spaghetti sauces are tomato based sauces with spices. Sometimes garlic and onions are included to. Meat can be added to spaghetti sauce, but is not required. Bolognese sauce is a meat sauce that starts with the sautéing of onions, celery and carrots. It is finished with milk or heavy cream and cheese.
You can keep it simple and use ground beef for the base of your bolognese sauce, or you can use turkey, pork or a combination of meats. You can also use spicy or mild Italian sausage for more flavor.
Dry pasta needs liquid to soften and cook up. This can be done with boiling it first or adding it to sauce that has water added to it. My recipe for bolognese pasta bake partially cooks the rigatoni pasta in the sauce and finishes cooking when baked in the oven.
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 clip chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1lb Italian sausage
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 28oz petite diced tomatoes
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1 tbs dried basil
- 1 tbs dried parsley
- 8 oz rigatoni
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- Place a large Dutch oven over medium high heat and add olive oil.
- When oil is hot, add chopped onions, carrot and celery and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add Italian sausage and break it down with a wooden spoon. Continue cooking and browning the meat until cooked thru and in crumbled pieces.
- Season with ½ teaspoon salt and add garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste then add diced tomatoes, dried parsley and dried basil. Stir until combined and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Raise temperature to high and add water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to boil.
- Once mixture is boiling, stir in pasta. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Stir in heavy cream and ¼ cup of grated parmesan.
- Transfer to a casserole dish and spread pasta and sauce evenly.
- Top with ¼ cup of grated parmesan and mozzarella.
- Bake uncovered until bubbly top is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
You can also use penne, ziti or fusilli pasta.
If you have an oven safe pot, you can cook it over the stove and then just bake it right there in the pot.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 606Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 24gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 1394mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 5gSugar: 10gProtein: 26g
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