You’re going to love making this Cheesy Baked Mostaccioli for family dinner! A comforting pasta recipe made with tender mostaccioli noodles tossed in a rich meat sauce, layered with three types of cheese and then baked to golden, bubbly perfection.
Pasta lovers, this one’s for you! This casserole is the ultimate comfort food that the whole family will love. Baked mostaccioli is a hearty pasta dish made with melty cheese, meaty Italian sausage and sweet marinara sauce. Topped with a crisp layer of seasoned breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, this recipe is full of delicious flavor and one of the best weeknight dinners!
Baked mostaccioli is perfect to prepare ahead for freezing and easy reheating, making it great for meal prep and potlucks, too!
What is Mostaccioli?
Mostaccioli is a type of dry, tubular pasta that is a specialty in Southern Italy. Similar to penne, both have angled ends and are often interchangeable in recipes like this baked pasta casserole! The main difference is that mostaccioli pasta has a smooth exterior, while penne has ridges.
Baked mostaccioli, baked penne, and baked ziti are all more or less the same dish apart from the type of pasta used in the recipe. These casseroles all involve pasta tubes combined with red sauce and ground meat, layered with cheese and then baked.
What You’ll Need
This mostaccioli recipe is filled with Italian-inspired ingredients and authentic flavors. Here’s what you’ll need:
Pasta: This baked pasta recipe calls for mostaccioli pasta (however, you can also make this recipe as baked ziti or baked penne should you substitute these types of pasta noodles instead).
Italian Sausage: Good quality ground sausage meat, either mild or spicy depending on preference.
Marinara Sauce: I use jarred marinara sauce for convenience. Feel free to use fresh or homemade marinara sauce if you have some handy!
Cheese: This pasta bake uses three kinds of cheeses. Ricotta cheese for its creamy texture, mozzarella cheese for the classic Italian flavor, and parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best!).
Garlic: Whole cloves, minced.
Italian Seasoning: You can also use a combination of dried basil, oregano, and parsley.
Breadcrumbs: Panko or a similar brand. Note that unseasoned is best!
Salt & Pepper
How to Make Mostaccioli
It all starts with a sweet meat sauce! Here’s how to prepare this easy pasta dinner:
Make the Meat Sauce: Saute the onions, then add in the ground Italian sausage to cook until browned. Drain any grease and then pour in the jar of marinara. Leave the sauce to simmer on low.
Make the Cheese Mixture: In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, some of the parmesan, along with the Italian seasoning and an egg.
Make the Breadcrumb Topping: Lightly toast the breadcrumbs in a skillet with the garlic powder and remaining parmesan. Set this mixture aside for now.
Boil the Pasta & Toss With Sauce: Cook the mostaccioli pasta al dente (it’s best to follow the package directions here, as cooking times may vary). Strain the noodles and then toss them with the meat sauce until everything is evenly coated.
Assemble: To assemble your pasta bake, begin by adding a layer of pasta into the bottom of a baking dish. Top with the ricotta cheese mixture, followed by another pasta layer. Finally, sprinkle the breadcrumb topping evenly overtop.
Bake: Bake the casserole covered in foil, before removing the foil for the last few minutes of baking time. The breadcrumbs should be a nice golden brown when you remove your baked mostaccioli from the oven.
Tips & Variation Ideas
Cook the Pasta Al Dente: Boil the pasta noodles until they’re just al dente, or still a little firm. Since you’ll be baking the pasta in the sauce, avoid overcooking it.
Use Quality Ingredients: A nice quality Italian sausage is a must! You can always check with your local deli or butcher shop, as they may have a better selection than grocery stores. You can also use other ground meat in place of the sausage, such as ground beef, ground pork, or ground turkey. Make sure to get a good quality marinara sauce as well!
Use Fresh Cheeses: Trust me, this makes a world of difference. Freshly grate your mozzarella and parmesan for the best and most authentic flavors, minus all the added sodium and preservatives.
Substitute Different Pasta: Both penne noodles and ziti noodles can be used in place of mostaccioli pasta.
Make Vegetarian Baked Mostaccioli: Use a combination of your favorite diced veggies in place of sausage. Some good options are mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, butternut squash, and spinach.
This baked mostaccioli is a meal all on it’s own! However, you can easily serve it along with a fresh garden salad and Homemade Garlic Bread for a more complete Italian-style dinner. Here are some other suggestions for what to serve it with:
How to Store and Reheat Extras
Leftover baked mostaccioli can be stored airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave on low, or in the oven until heated through.
Can I Freeze this Baked Pasta Dish?
Absolutely! You can prep and freeze this baked mostaccioli casserole in a freezer-safe dish, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and an extra layer of aluminum foil, for up to 3-4 months. Thaw the dish overnight in the fridge and then bake as usual.
You can also bake this pasta casserole directly from frozen, adding an extra 10-15 minutes to the cooking time.
Delicious and comforting Cheesy Baked Mostaccioli is perfect for family dinner! A cozy pasta casserole made with tender mostaccioli noodles tossed in a rich meat sauce, layered with three types of cheese and baked to golden perfection.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 1/2 pounds ground Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28- ounce) jar marinara sauce
1 large egg
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups grated low moisture mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup unseasoned Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound Mostaccioli
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Make the meat sauce: Add olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions until they are softened, 3 – 4 minutes. Add in the ground sausage and cook until the sausage is no longer pink. Add in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Drain any excess grease and add in the marinara sauce. Turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer while you complete the next steps.
Make the cheese mixture: In a large bowl combine the egg, ricotta, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, mozzarella, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
Make the breadcrumb topping: In a small skillet melt the butter on medium heat. Continue cooking and stirring the butter until it becomes a golden brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in the Panko, garlic powder, and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
Boil the pasta: Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain thoroughly. Add the pasta to the meat sauce and stir to combine evenly.
Assemble: Add half of the pasta mixture evenly into the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture evenly on top. Spread the remaining pasta on top. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs evenly on top.
Bake: Cover the pan with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 – 10 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Keywords: mostaccioli recipes, easy pasta recipes, pasta casserole