Pasta al forno (pasta bake the Italian way)

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4.88 from 16 votes
Sicilian baked pasta al forno tortiglioni
Pasta al forno (baked pasta the Italian way)
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
2 hrs
 
This recipe is based on my Sicilian mother-in-law's version of pasta al forno. It's rich and tasty and perfect for when you have a large number to feed!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Sicilian, Southern Italian
Keyword: baked pasta recipe, pasta al forno, pasta bake
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline Debono
Ingredients
For the meat ragu
  • 500 g minced beef and pork mix or veal
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  • 100 g peas
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (optional) garlic isn't always used in ragu. But you can add it if you like it.
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful basil leaves or parsley chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato concentrate
  • 500 ml tomato pulp or passata
  • salt and pepper to taste
For the pasta al forno
  • 400 g tortiglioni or other pasta tubes (better ridged like rigatoni)
  • 300 g caciocavallo or mozzarella cut into pieces
  • 50 g parmesan
Instructions
First the meat ragu
  1. Chop the carrot, onion, garlic and celery finely.
  2. Fry the vegetables in olive oil until they are softening. Be careful not to allow them to burn!

  3. Add the minced meat and cook until browned.
  4. Then add the tomato concentrate and stir well

  5. Add the glass of wine and stir well again
  6. When the wine has evaporated pour in the tomato pulp and mix it in well with the meat.
  7. Add the basil leaves and salt and pepper as required.
  8. Cover the sauce and allow to simmer on a low heat for at least an hour, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick. If it gets too thick add some water.
  9. 15 minutes before the sauce is ready add the peas.
Second prepare the pasta
  1. Put salted water on to boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta 2-3 minutes less than instructed on the packet. Strain and add the pasta to the meat sauce when it is ready.
  2. Mix the pasta and sauce well and allow to cool.
Third put the pasta al forno together and bake.
  1. Put a layer of pasta with sauce on the bottom of an oven dish.
  2. Make another layer with thick pieces of mozzarella.
  3. Add another layer of pasta with meat sauce and again some mozzarella
  4. Finish with a layer of pasta.
  5. Sprinkle with parmesan and bake in a pre-heated oven 180-200° until the top layer starts to crisp (30-40 mins)
Recipe Notes

Any tube pasta can be used to make this pasta bake e.g. penne, rigatoni, maccheroni, elicoidali etc
Instead of caciocavallo or mozzarella you can also use scamorza or provola
instead of grated parmesan, pecorino or grana are delicious too!
This dish can be prepared in advance up to the point of baking it. Keep it in the fridge and bake just before serving.

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Italian pasta al forno baked pasta

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61 Comments

  • Avatar
    Rachel
    April 30, 2020 6:52 pm

    What temperature should the oven be? 200F?

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      April 30, 2020 10:22 pm

      Hi Rachel. Thanks for your comment. Oven temperatures are given in celsius as that’s what we use here in Europe. 200°c is about 390°f.

  • Avatar
    MIK
    December 15, 2019 6:02 pm

    I must have done something wrong, because everybody seems to love this dish, while I was left seriously underwhelmed. Having zero former experience baking pasta, I followed the recipe to a “t”. The taste was OK, though for me the dish is too bland and needs some kick. My problem was the texture – a hard, dry, difficult-to-chew top layer and the mushy pasta beneath. Is it supposed to be like that? That hard top layer? If I decided to give it another try, I’d probably go for a smaller-sized pasta (I used rigatoni), more fresh mozzarella and some chilli. A light, bright, zingy green salad on the side is a must.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      December 16, 2019 8:51 am

      Hi MIK, thanks for your message. I’m sorry to hear you weren’t happy with your pasta al forno. It’s difficult to know what the problem was. This is a classic Italian recipe and we cook it a lot. The sauce needs to be simmered for at least an hour so it has a richer taste (in fact the longer you cook it the better it is). If you like a bit of spice you can, of course, add some red chili pepper (peperoncino), although that’s not traditional for this recipe. There are only 2 reasons that the pasta would be mushy underneath and too hard on top. It is either over-cooking or a low quality pasta. What brand of pasta did you use?

      • Avatar
        MIK
        December 28, 2019 10:07 am

        Hello, Jacqui! Thank you for responding. I used Italian Barilla pasta. I have a dual cook oven and baked the dish in the upper half at the fan setting. Perhaps I should just use the top-bottom heaters. I’m giving it another try today; keep your fingers crossed.

  • Avatar
    Tracey Milone
    September 6, 2019 4:22 am

    Absolutely bellissimo! I have always cooked lasagne for my family but after cooking this, it will be a recipe that will be used over and over again!!!

    • Avatar
      The Pasta Project
      September 10, 2019 9:06 pm

      Grazie! Glad you love it!

  • Avatar
    Linda
    March 12, 2019 10:42 am

    I am cooking pasta al forno (baked the Italian way) for dinner today and in the recipe it says to chop the garlic. There is no mention of garlic in the ingredients so how much garlic do I put in please?

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      March 12, 2019 2:08 pm

      Hi Linda, thanks for pointing that out. I will correct it immediately! 1-2 cloves is what I sometimes use, depending on how big they are. If you like a more garlicky flavour you can add more. But garlic isn’t always used in ragu so you can also leave it out.

  • Avatar
    Danielle Wolter
    February 9, 2019 8:18 pm

    OMG i feel like i could eat this all day. it sounds just amazing. baked pasta dishes like this are the best!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      February 11, 2019 4:34 pm

      Thank you dear Danielle! Baked pasta is definitely one of my favourites, especially when made with a meat ragu like this one. I could also eat it all day!

  • Avatar
    Gabby | The Tolerant Table
    July 31, 2018 4:35 am

    This looks absolutely delicious! I haven’t had a gorgeous pasta bake like this since I was a child. I love the fact that there are so many varieties of ragu too, with everyone giving it their own flare.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 31, 2018 7:35 am

      Grazie Gabby! Yes this baked pasta is a real winner and classic Italian family fare! I want to make some of the other regional versions this coming winter! Now it’s a bit too hot to have the oven on!

  • Avatar
    Mirlene
    July 30, 2018 4:50 am

    Wow! 22 people?! Great thing you had help. The pasta looks great. Always love seeing how people around the world cook their pastas. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:29 am

      Hi Mirlene, yep Italian family lunches often involve a lot of people!! My hubby has 4 sisters, all married with kids. So you can imagine how chaotic it gets! But so much fun and everybody mucks in!

  • Avatar
    April
    July 29, 2018 5:36 am

    This looks so delicious and I love that it’s filled with veggies. I’d love to make this one day for Sunday supper!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:30 am

      Thank you April! happy that you like this baked pasta! In reality you can put even more veggies in, although this is the traditional Sicilian way! All the best!

  • Avatar
    Samantha H.
    July 29, 2018 5:35 am

    Yum! This looks super flavorful and delicious. I love a good richly flavored pasta sauce and red sauce with pasta covered in cheese.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:32 am

      Yes, Samantha! this definitely has all the ingredients that make baked pasta so good! It’s one of my favourite recipes for family lunches!

  • Avatar
    Sondria
    July 29, 2018 4:03 am

    This certainly sounds delicious. I’m definitely making this the next time I have to feed a large amount of people.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:33 am

      Thanks Sondria, I’m sure it will go down a treat with your guests! Everybody loves a tasty baked pasta!

  • Avatar
    Armelle Dee
    July 28, 2018 8:24 pm

    These are the food I cried seeing since I went on a tomato free diet. I do love pasta with red sauce and i make it often for my kids. This recipe is the bomb!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:37 am

      Grazie Armelle! Baked pasta can also be made without tomatoes. Italians say ‘bianco’ check out my recipe for baked pasta roses! Your kids will love it too, I’m sure!

    • Avatar
      Franco
      November 13, 2018 6:16 pm

      We just got back from Italy and had to entertain three times, which is a challenge in a kitchen you’re not used to. What’s worse we had to compete with the great cooking they’re used to getting. The solution can also be your answer to a non red pasta. Try a sauce with dried Porcini mushrooms. Add bechamelle sauce which can be made with broth instead of milk if someone is lacto intolrant. We made lasagna, but it’s the same for pasta al forno. Mozzarella is not traditionally used in Italian lasagna, just some grated hard cheese like parmiggiano. Of course you can sauté fresh mushrooms if you don’t have dried porcini. We always bring back dried porcini. By the way, after our first guests dubbed my wife the “principles said die porcini” we repeated two more times. This sauce is great for just pasta as well.

      • Jacqui
        Jacqui
        November 14, 2018 10:19 am

        Thanks for your comment Franco! Your porcini sauce sounds delicious. Porcini and pasta is a match made in foodie heaven! I love porcini, especially fresh! I’ve never made béchamel without milk. Have to try that! It’s true that Italians don’t usually use mozzarella in lasagna, but some baked pasta dishes, particularly from Southern Italy do have mozzarella.

  • Avatar
    Alexis
    July 28, 2018 5:02 pm

    What a great dish to make for Sunday dinner, the perfect dish to bring the family together around the dinner table.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:39 am

      Thanks Alexis! Yes this is perfect for family meals! It’s easy to understand why it’s such a classic family meal dish here in Italy!

  • Avatar
    mydeliciousmeals
    July 28, 2018 12:11 am

    This looks like a great pasta dish! Perfect for gatherings. I like that Italians bring their own food to make it easier for the host, I wish we had the same tradition among Russians 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:40 am

      Thank you! Yes, I love this Italian tradition. The only problem with it is that sometimes you end up with too much food!!!!

  • Avatar
    Tina
    July 27, 2018 2:32 pm

    This looks amazing, and I’m sure everyone enjoyed it! 22 people over for lunch sounds like a lot of fun (and busy!)

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:46 am

      Grazie Tina, I’m happy you like this recipe! 22 is quite normal in my house, especially for family occasions. My hubby has 4 married sisters with kids, so you can imagine how chaotic family events become. But it’s lots of fun and everybody helps!

  • Avatar
    Kacie Morgan
    July 27, 2018 2:14 pm

    This looks so authentic and inviting. I love pasta, but sadly I’m on a keto diet at the moment so I’m having to avoid it. Shame – I would LOVE to try out your recipe. Maybe another time!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 10:50 am

      That’s a pity Kacie, although you can find some low carb pasta alternatives. I’ve read almond flour or bean pasta are popular substitutes, although I haven’t tried them myself! It would be interesting to know how either would taste in a baked pasta.

  • Avatar
    Jere Cassidy
    July 27, 2018 6:26 am

    I am such a fan of your pasta recipes. This sounds like another winner.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:37 am

      Aww thanks so much Jere! This is a great recipe for feeding large numbers and for family meals! A real classic here in Italy!

  • Avatar
    Gloria
    July 26, 2018 1:37 pm

    When I was a child, my mom made some baked spaghetti. This reminds me of that. I love baking pasta casseroles. This is a great and delicious way to feed a crowd.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:38 am

      Baked spaghetti sounds good Gloria! Yes baked pasta is a winner when it comes to feeding a large number!

  • Avatar
    Edyta at Eating European
    July 25, 2018 7:41 pm

    There’s nothing better than good pasta bake. I love this recipe. Will be making it often 🙂

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:43 am

      Grazie Edyta, am thrilled you love this recipe and want to make it! You won’t be disappointed!

  • Avatar
    Rae
    July 25, 2018 7:18 pm

    I am drooling over here! Recently I have become somewhat obsessed with traditional Italian recipes (not that I have any Italian in my family whatsoever), and I love how you broke down different regions and styles. So incredibly helpful. My husband is going to LOVE this pasta!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:45 am

      Thanks so much Rae, I’m happy you liked the recipe and the information in the post. Pasta is such a major player in Italian cuisine but it’s made and prepared in different ways from region to region! I love these variations!

  • Avatar
    ali randall
    July 25, 2018 6:58 pm

    This recipe is going in my winter rotation. I am always looking for yummy recipes that my family will love that can be ready after a long day. Looks wonderful.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:47 am

      Thanks so much Ali! Pasta baked this way or similarly is a popular family meal recipe throughout Italy. I’m sure your family will love it too!!

  • Avatar
    Kristina @ Love & Zest
    July 25, 2018 6:55 pm

    Kids love pasta! This is a recipe everyone needs to try (kids or not) because I know it is going to be delicious!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:49 am

      I agree Kristina, this is a recipe both young and old will love. It’s certainly loved by kids and adults alike here in Italy!

  • Avatar
    Michelle
    July 25, 2018 5:07 pm

    I can make this on a Sunday and eat it the rest of the week for lunch, thanks for the inspiration!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:52 am

      You certainly can Michelle! I do it often. Sometimes I just heat the leftovers in the microwave or oven. It keeps well in the fridge for 2-4 days! Other times I make more than one dish, so that I can bake the second one a day or two later!

  • Avatar
    Constance Smith
    July 25, 2018 2:48 pm

    Oh my heavens that looks amazing!!! I love how dense and filling that looks. Absolute comfort food!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:53 am

      Comfort food perfection Constance. I guess that’s why baked pasta is so popular with Italian families!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Anthony
    July 25, 2018 1:51 pm

    This looks delicious and perfect for a weeknight dinner! Putting it on the must-try list!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:54 am

      Thanks so much Kelly! I’m happy you want to try this classic Italian dish! I’m absolutely sure you’ll love it!

  • Avatar
    Micky
    July 25, 2018 1:33 pm

    Baked pasta dishes are my favorite! Definitely bookmarking your page for more ideas!

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 11:55 am

      Thanks Micky! I love baked pasta too and there are many ways to make it. This one is a classic loved by kids and adults alike!

  • Avatar
    Stine Mari
    July 25, 2018 11:09 am

    This looks really good, and I loved to read about the different varieties of ragu in different regions! And Italian families sound awesome.

    • Jacqui
      Jacqui
      July 30, 2018 12:14 pm

      Grazie cara Stine Mari! Yes it’s interesting that ragu recipes vary from region to region here in Italy, sometimes even from town to town. Baked pasta with ragu is really a classic enjoyed by young and old here!

  • Avatar
    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
      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

  • Avatar
    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
      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

  • Avatar
    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
      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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