This is one of those recipes that’s almost too simple to share, but is too much of a favorite not to. It’s simple, but oh, so good.
And, really, who doesn’t love a recipe that involves pasta topped with gooey cheese?
Well, I know one person who doesn’t. Just one….my daughter. But let’s not talk about it, okay?
Anyway, my boys love this dish. Love. It. When I told Riley I was making it, he said, “That’s my very favorite thing. Ever.”
Of course, his other favorite foods are grapefruit and Brussels sprouts. He’s funny like that. You can decide how much to trust his opinion.
Pasta, bottled sauce, mozzarella cheese, and half a pound of ground beef. I almost always have these items on hand, so it’s a no-brainer to add this to the menu plan every few weeks. And since it can be made ahead of time and easily reheated, it’ll show up a lot during busy seasons. So, basically, always.
Start by putting a large pot of water on the stove to boil and turning on the oven to 350 degrees.
While waiting for the water to heat (which always takes forever, right?), add the meat to a large skillet and begin to brown it over medium heat. Break it into small pieces and give it a little sprinkling of salt and pepper as it’s cooking.
The pasta water may have started to boil by now. Or not. Depends on how much it likes to torture you with waiting (I’m not very patient, in case you didn’t notice). Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Mine took about ten minutes. Oh, and don’t forget to toss in a couple tablespoons of salt.
Now, back to the meat. Once it’s all nice and browned, dump in the jar of sauce. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, you can use a spoon to drain it off, but I find that any cheap sauce tastes pretty good with some meat and a little bit of the grease. Just a fact.
Add a little water to the almost-empty sauce jar and have a cute kid give it a shake before you pour it into the pan, too. The cute kid is optional, but highly recommended.
Let the sauce simmer and thicken while the rigatoni is cooking.
I find that the key to delicious not-quite-homemade meat sauce is salt. Sprinkle…taste…sprinkle some more…taste…on and on.
Once the pasta is cooked al dente (should be just firmer than you would serve right now), drain into an ugly blue colander. Or a pretty one, if you have it.
By now, the sauce should be all thick and yummy, so dump the pasta right on top of it. If your skillet isn’t big enough to hold it all, then you could also throw the pasta and sauce into the large pot you used for cooking the noodles.
Give it a stir.
Pour or spoon it into a baking or casserole dish. You can use almost any size. Just remember that more surface area means more room for cheesy goodness. I usually use a 9 x 13 pan.
Sprinkle with (lots of) cheese.
Bake for about twenty to twenty-five minutes, or until cheese is melted. If the dish was made ahead of time and has been chilling in the fridge, it will take several minutes longer. Just be sure it’s hot inside and all melty on top.
Scoop and eat. Oh, and I wouldn’t count on having any leftovers. Sorry!
- One pound Rigatoni or other shaped pasta, uncooked
- One jar spaghetti sauce
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Boil salted water in a large pot, and cook pasta till al dente, according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Once beef is no longer pink, pour sauce into pan. Simmer over low heat until slightly thickened. Add additional salt, to taste.
- Combine cooked and drained pasta with the sauce. Pour or spoon into a large baking dish and top with cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes until heated through and the cheese is melted.