Baked Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

This baked Mostaccioli is an easy pasta dish with a rich meaty sauce topped with cheese and baked until bubbly.

This meal is great to make ahead, reheats and freezes perfectly and everyone LOVES it.

cooked Creamy Baked Mostaccioli in a dish

A traditional pasta bake recipe (in this case mostaccioli) is loaded with meat and cheese in a rich and hearty tomato sauce!

So what is mostaccioli? Mostaccioli is a pasta shape very similar to penne but it has a smooth exterior instead of ridged. This hearty pasta is a thick, heavy tube, with diagonal ends.

It holds up well to meat-based sauces and creamy cheeses (like a mac and cheese sauce)! It’s great in soups as well.

ingredients to make Creamy Baked Mostaccioli

Ingredients

PASTA Of course we use Mostaccioli but penne is the perfect substitute. You can use any medium shaped pasta in this recipe.

TOMATO SAUCE We use marinara sauce as the base with canned diced tomatoes for texture. A splash of cream softens the tang from the tomatoes and adds a bit of richness.

MEAT  Ground beef is our choice in this recipe as I almost always have it on hand. Italian sausage is a great substitute (or really any ground meat). You can even make this with meatballs if you have some!

CHEESE We top this with mozzarella and parmesan. While I don’t recommend pre-shredded cheese for sauces, they’re a great time saver for topping cheesy casseroles.

Variations

  • Turkey, beef, or pork sausage can be added.
  • For a vegetarian or meatless version, mix in a combination of diced veggies like chopped spinach, onions, diced zucchini, sliced mushrooms, and/or eggplant.
  • Add some ricotta cheese, and pop in the oven (we love ricotta in baked ziti too)!

Steps for making baked mostaccioli

How to Make Baked Mostaccioli

  1. Brown beef, onion, and garlic. (Per the recipe below)
  2. Stir in the sauce ingredients and simmer.
  3. While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta al dente.
  4. Layer the pasta with sauce in a casserole dish, top with cheese and bake until bubbly.

PRO TIP: Once fully baked, put the Mostaccioli under the broiler for about 3 minutes to make it browned and bubbly!

mixed Creamy Baked Mostaccioli in a casserole dish before cooking

Make-Ahead (& Leftovers)

  • Prep and cover in the fridge. When you’re ready, bake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven. It can stay in the refrigerator for about 3 days before baking.
  • Or, prep and freeze wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil for up to 3 months (make sure the date is labeled on the outside). Let the casserole thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed.
  • No time to thaw from frozen? Simply remove all the plastic wrap, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes and then remove the foil and bake another 20-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbly!

More Pasta Bakes

Did your family love this Baked Mostaccioli? Be sure to leave a rating and a comment below! 

cooked Creamy Baked Mostaccioli in a white casserole dish

Creamy Baked Mostaccioli

This creamy pasta dish is budget-friendly and so easy to prepare. It's perfect to feed a crowd or for a quick weeknight meal!
Course Beef, Casserole, Dinner, Entree, Pasta
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 523
Author Holly Nilsson

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces mostaccioli or penne
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounces marinara sauce
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes undrained
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese shredded

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 9×13 pan.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water until al dente. Do not overcook.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan brown ground beef, onion, and garlic until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  • Stir in marinara sauce, diced tomatoes, water, Italian seasoning, and sugar. Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and simmer an additional 5 minutes or until thickened.
  • Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan. Add half of the cooked pasta and top with half of the remaining sauce.
  • Add remaining pasta, top with remaining sauce and cheeses.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until hot and the cheese is lightly browned.

Notes

Do not overcook the pasta as it will cook more in the oven.

Substitute Italian sausage (or your favorite any ground meat for beef.

For a vegetarian or meatless version, mix in a combination of diced veggies like chopped spinach, onions, diced zucchini, sliced mushrooms, and/or eggplant.

Make Ahead: Prep and cover in the fridge. When you’re ready, bake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven. It can stay in the refrigerator for about 3 days before baking.

Freeze:  Freeze wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil for up to 3 months.

Thaw: Let the casserole thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake as directed (you may need to add a few minutes extra cook time).

Cook From Frozen: Simply remove all the plastic wrap, cover with aluminum foil and place it in the oven as you preheat the oven. Bake for 45 minutes and then remove the foil and bake an additional 20-30 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 523 | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 104mg | Sodium: 870mg | Potassium: 767mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1146IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 256mg | Iron: 4mg
spoon full of Creamy Baked Mostaccioli with writing
Creamy Baked Mostaccioli in a dish with writing
close up of Creamy Baked Mostaccioli with a title
Creamy Baked Mostaccioli in the dish and a spoon full with a title

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