Pasta al forno (pasta bake the Italian way)

Pasta al forno – baked pasta the Italian way

Sicilian pasta al forno baked pasta

Pasta al forno – traditional baked pasta

This recipe is based on the wonderful ‘pasta al forno’ (pasta bake) my Sicilian mother-in-law makes! In fact, she brought a dish (actually two) over to our house last Easter Sunday. We had 22 people for lunch which was quite a challenge but the great thing about Italian families is they are always happy to contribute towards the cooking and food, so it’s rare for the hosts to end up doing everything. Dessert is a very traditional offering and we actually ended up with 5 different cakes made by various guests and family members! Plus this wonderful pasta al forno!

(click to go straight to recipe)

Sicilian pasta al forno baked pasta

If we include vegetarian dishes, there are hundreds of different recipes for baked pasta, pasta al forno, here in Italy. But, the most traditional and classic is with a meat sauce or ‘ragu’, a tube pasta type such as macaroni (in Italian ‘maccheroni’). rigatoni, tortiglioni, elicoidali, penne etc and some local soft or semi soft cheese as well as parmesan, pecorino or grana sprinkled on top.

Pasta al Forno, perfect for Sunday lunch!

‘Pasta al forno’ is a popular dish in Italy on Sundays or public holidays, especially in the South. This is probably because it takes longer to make than recipes with pasta which has only been boiled, so it is too time consuming for a week day meal. However, it can be made mostly in advance and is ideal for feeding a large number of people. Needless to say, there are always plenty of guests at an Italian family Sunday or holiday lunch! Kids also love it and a beautifully baked ‘pasta al forno’ looks so great when brought to the table!

Sicilian pasta al forno baked tortiglioni

Normally in Italy, pasta is not the main course. It is the ‘primo’ or first course and is often followed by meat or fish with vegetables and sometimes potatoes, although Italians aren’t big potato eaters unlike the Germans or the Brits! For this reason, pasta is often served with a lighter sauce, but on special occasions when families get together baked pasta is a popular tradition.

Different ragu recipes.

Housewives and cooks in each Italian region have a slightly different way of making ‘ragu’(meat sauce). However, the basic ingredients are much the same; two or three types of meat, ground or cut into small pieces (often pork and beef or veal), fresh tomatoes or passata, carrots, celery and onions, stock and wine. The rest of the ingredients vary from region to region and sometimes from cook to cook. Some add other vegetables, spices, herbs and Bolognese, for example, is made with milk.

Sicilian ragu

In some regions, they also add hard boiled eggs and many add homemade bechamel sauce to the dish. Not every pasta al forno includes a soft cheese, but most do. The most commonly used is mozzarella but scamorza, caciocavallo or provola are popular too.

Sicilian ragu.

This al forno recipe (see the next page) is made with ragu from Sicily , which includes peas. The cheese is caciocavallo and the pasta, tortiglioni . It was yummilicious and despite the number sitting down to lunch that day, there was quite a bit left over so I was able to enjoy it the next day too! 

If you have never made pasta al forno, do give it a try. It’s a wonderful go-to dish when you are planning to feed a large number. I’d love to hear from any of you who make this recipe, so feel free to comment here on the blog or on the Pasta Project Facebook page!

Buon appetito!

(to see the recipe go to the next page. Just scroll down and click 2)

If you’d like to make a vegetarian pasta al forno take a look at the recipe for baked lasagna alla Norma or baked pasta with burrata and mushrooms. Both are really delicious! 

Lasagne al forno mushrooms and burrata
Lasagne al forno mushrooms and burrata

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  • Ramona
    March 27, 2018 1:01 pm

    This pasta looks and sounds so amazing – my kids definitely want to have it now after seeing the pictures, well, put it this way – they would easily leave on your pastas Jacqui. I’ve shown them few of your pasta dishes and now all they want it’s pasta. This is going to be on the table tonight. Thank you so much for sharing

    • admin
      March 28, 2018 3:54 pm

      Thank you dearest Ramona! I’m sure your kids will go crazy for this dish! It’s madly popular with Italian kids…and adults love it too!! Love from Verona! Jacqui

  • Amanda Wren-Grimwood
    March 27, 2018 12:31 pm

    I love the idea of making this in advance and feeding a crowd. It just looks so good! I think I know what to have for dinner tomorrow now too!

    • admin
      March 28, 2018 3:56 pm

      Grazie cara Amanda! Pasta al forno is really the Italian go-to dish for big family lunches and other times there are lots of guests around the table! Do let me know how it turns out. Buon appetito! Jacqui

  • melve
    March 27, 2018 8:57 am

    Creamy pasta is always my favorite and drooling every time I see it, that’s why I have a Pasta List. I must try this and I hope I found all the ingredient on the market.

    • admin
      March 28, 2018 3:59 pm

      Hi Melve, thanks so much for your comment and rating! I hope you do find all the ingredients because I’m sure you’ll love this pasta al forno. It’s a great dish for feeding a crowd! All the best from Verona! Jacqui

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