Pasta al Forno is a classic Italian baked pasta dish. It is made with cooked pasta tossed in a meat and tomato sauce and topped with lots of cheese, then baked to perfection for less than 30 minutes. This pasta casserole is perfect for a family dinner, big gathering, or celebrations.
What does Pasta al Forno means?
"al Forno" means food that is baked in the oven. Pasta al Forno is an Italian dish that can be made with lots of variations such as veggies, sausage, and chicken. However, the common thing between all the variations is cheese. This recipe loves cheese; the more, the better.
Today I decided to make Pasta al Forno, and I usually make it a lot, so I went to the local store to buy ziti pasta. I bought pasta and other stuff as well, and when I came home, I discovered that I bought penne, not ziti. So, I decided to go with penne in making the recipe.
What will you like about this recipe?
- This recipe is budget-friendly.
- Will feed a crowd.
- Can make in advance.
- It stores, freezes, and reheats very well.
What's in Pasta al Forno?
For the Sauce:
Minced beef: use extra lean beef
Olive Oil: you can use cooking oil if you want
Garlic: use four cloves of minced garlic
Onion: finely chopped
Tomato Sauce: any kind you prefer
Seasonings: salt, black pepper, and Italian herbs.
Cooked Pasta: Use penne or ziti and cook according to the package instructions.
Mozzarella Cheese: shredded
Fresh Parsley: finely chopped for garnishing (optional)
How to make Pasta al Forno?
Preparing the Pasta: Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions, then drain well.
Making the Sauce: In a small pot, heat the oil, then add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute, until onion softened. Add the meat, stir for 1 minute, then add salt, black pepper, Italian herbs, and tomato sauce. Stir, cook for 20-25 minutes.
Assembling the casserole: Toss the pasta into the meat and tomato sauce, stir well until combined. Place the pasta in a 20x20 baking dish and sprinkle all the cheese on top of it.
Baking: Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes or until has a lovely brown colour.
Let the pasta cool down for 10 minutes, then garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
- Don't overcook the pasta because it will continue to bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. It could become too soft.
- You can make this baked pasta with white sauce (Béchamel sauce) instead of meat tomato sauce.
- Feel free to make Pasta al Forno meat-free by using veggies such as cauliflower or zucchini instead of meat. You can also add some olives or cherry tomatoes.
- You can use a mix between cheddar cheese and mozzarella (one cup of each) for extra flavour.
- You can replace Italian herbs with dried basil and thyme (¼ tsp each).
- If you want to make it ahead of time, you can assemble the casserole then put in the fridge, ready for baking.
Make it with Veggies: You can add to the sauce any veggies you like, such as zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, peas, eggplant, or spinach.
Make it with White Sauce (Béchamel sauce), follow the instructions below:
In a small pot, add ¼ cup oil and ¼ cup butter on medium heat. Once the butter melts, add ½ cup plus 1 tbsp plain flour, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, and 3 cups of milk slowly (pour it in a tiny stream) while stirring vigorously. Keep stirring until the sauce thickens, then turn off the heat.
Make it with Another Protein: You don't have to stick with minced beef to make Pasta al Forno; you can make it with sausage, minced turkey, or cooked chicken (diced).
Use Different Cheese: Don't like to use mozzarella cheese? That is fine; you can use any other cheese you prefer, such as cheddar, fontina, or even mix of cheese.
Easy pasta Recipes
Which pasta should you use?
You can use any kind; however, I recommend using a short pasta such as rigatoni, Penne, Fusilli, and elbow.
How to store, freeze and reheat Pasta al Forno?
To store Pasta al Forno, cover well and put in the fridge for 3-4 days. To freeze it, put in a well-sealed container in the freezer for 1-2 months. Let it thaw completely before reheating, then put in the oven for 20 minutes or microwave for 2 minutes.
Sometimes, I slice up the whole casserole and freeze every piece individually, that way it’s easier if I only need one portion or two.
What is the best tomato sauce to use in making Pasta al Forno?
In my opinion, the best tomato sauce is a homemade one. However, any good quality sauce will work fine in this recipe.
What should I serve with this Italian baked pasta?
Serve salad or roasted veggies. Below are some suggested recipes:
More dinner recipes:
Pan-Fried Sea Bass with soy sauce: This is a delicious way of eating sea bass with a delicious homemade sauce made with soy sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger.
Easy One-Pot Pasta with veggies: A simple pasta dish made with only veggies and pasta, no meat involved.
Eggplant Lasagne: If you want to make a low carb lasagne, this recipe is a good choice for you. It’s made with eggplants, minced beef, and lots of cheese.
Homemade Chicken Nuggets: Crispy chicken nuggets baked in the oven need few ingredients, and everyone is sure to love it.
More Pasta Recipes
Pasta al Forno (Italian Baked Pasta)
For the Sauce
- 350 g cooked pasta
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- Cook the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions, then drain well.
- Next, In a small pot, heat the oil, then add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute, until onion softened. Add the meat, stir for 1 minute, then add salt, black pepper, Italian herbs, and tomato sauce. Stir, cook for 20-25 minutes.
- Toss the pasta into the meat and tomato sauce, stir well until combined. Place the pasta in a 20x20 baking dish and sprinkle all the cheese on top of it.
- Bake at 180C for 20-25 minutes or until has a lovely brown colour.
- Let the pasta cool down for 10 minutes, then garnish with chopped parsley (optional) and serve.
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