This Classic Baked Mostaccioli is the perfect Italian pasta dish for weeknight dinners, family gatherings, and holiday parties. The perfect combination of marinara sauce, Italian sausage, spices and of course cheese
This Classic Baked Mostaccioli makes an appearance at nearly every family party we have. One would think we would get tired of eating it, but no, it is so good I could eat it hourly. My grandma has been making this recipe for as long as I can remember. My mother even told me that she ate this pasta as a kid! I won’t give away her age, but that’s a long time. This pasta recipe is super easy to make and can work as a weeknight dinner, or as a side for any type of party. Even better is that this pasta can be kept warm in a crock pot to enjoy all day, can be prepped ahead of time and is freezer friendly! This Italian classic has been a stable in my family for many years and I hope you love it as well!
Note: If making the pasta ahead of time a 9×13 inch baking dish with a lid works great!
The ingredients you will need for this recipe are:
Mostaccioli Pasta Noodles
Mozzarella Cheese and Grated Parmesan Cheese
Perfect Marinara Sauce- or your favorite store-bought brand!
Ground Beef and Ground Italian Sausage
How Do You Make Baked Mostaccioli?
Making mostaccioli is no harder than making spaghetti. And I think we can all agree that spaghetti is pretty dang easy! This baked mostaccioli recipe is great because there are multiple short cuts that can make this recipe your new go-to weeknight pasta dish. This classic baked mostaccioli can also be made completely from scratch and simmer for hours just how my grandma makes it.
Sauce and Ingredient Prep
First, you will need to make your sauce. For this classic baked mostaccioli recipe I love to use my Perfect Marinara Sauce. Making your own sauce can seem intimidating and time consuming. In reality it is very simple and only requires an extra 30 minutes. Personally, I like to make my sauce ahead of time. If making your own sauce is not something you want to tackle, I understand. You can use 2 jars of store-bought pasta sauce for this recipe and it comes out wonderfully. I recommend using a simple marinara sauce with ingredients like garlic and basil.
Thoroughly cook your ground beef, and Italian sausage so no pink remains, then drain the excess grease. I like to add onion and garlic to the meats as they cook to develop more flavor.
In the same pan you will will combine the sauce, cooked meat, and spices. Cover and let this simmer for as long as possible. I recommend at least the time it takes to cook the pasta, but if you have more time let that sauce simmer and develop even more flavor!
While the sauce is simmering I like to cook my pasta. For this classic baked mostaccioli recipe you will want to use mostaccioli noodles. Slightly under-cook your pasta so it doesn’t get mushy while baking.
Baking the Pasta
Next, it is time to assemble your pasta and bake it. Personally, I like to dump everything in a large 13×9 baking dish and mix it that way. If your skillet with the sauce is large enough you could add your noodles to that and mix it that way. Whatever you prefer just make sure all the noodles are coated with sauce!
Mix in a generous amount of mozzarella cheese to the pasta and sauce mixture then again over top for a gooey finish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until heated through and cheese is bubbling.
Tips and Suggestions
Don’t leave out the sausage!
You can use either mild or hot Italian sausage, just make sure it is not left out. I know with recipes the use a mixture of meats it can be tempting to pick one or the other. Do. Not. Do. That. Here. The Italian sausage is what makes mostaccioli, well mostaccioli. The flavor the meat gives sets this pasta apart from its cousins spaghetti, and lasagna.
If you worry about wasting the leftover meat you can store it in the freezer and save it for another recipe. You could also cook all the meat at one time and add the extra meat to breakfast burritos or eggs for a morning meal the next day. To put into perspective of how important the Italian sausage is to this recipe, my grandmother would disown you if you left it out.
The More Sauce the Better.
I really do not want you to have dried out mostaccioli. It is going to feel like you are using too much sauce. It is then in that moment that you know you are using the perfect amount. If you only use the equivalent of one jar of marinara sauce your pasta is going to be as dry as the Sahara at noon.
You should use 2 jars of sauce for this recipe, and even add a bit more to the leftovers. Whenever you bake pasta or plan to store it in a crock pot, sauce it up. This hack has saved countless pasta dishes through the years. If you take away one thing from this, just remember, there is no such thing as too much sauce.
Yes and no. You need to make the sauce, pasta and bake it all together first. THEN you can place the mostaccioli in the crockpot on warm and stir occasionally to avoid the bottom from sticking. This option is great for parties!
How long does leftover mostaccioli stay good for?
When stored in the fridge in an airtight container this recipe will stay good for up to 4 days. Reheat leftovers in the oven (350 degrees for 15-20 minutes) or microwave (60 seconds) until hot.
Can baked mostaccioli be frozen?
Yes! I often make a double batch and freeze half. Store in two freezer safe bags and lay flat. Mostaccioli will stay good for up to 3 months. When ready to reheat let it de-thaw in the fridge then warm it up in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until warmed through. Alternatively, you can microwave the pasta in a small bowl covered for 60 seconds until warm.
Can mostaccioli be made ahead of time?
Yes! My grandma often will make this dish ahead of time and store in the fridge, then pop it in the oven when ready to eat! I recommend making this pasta no more than 24 hours ahead of time. Follow all recipe prep instructions then store in an airtight container in the fridge. When ready to bake add an additional 5 minutes to the bake time and enjoy!
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Combine Italian sausage, ground beef and chopped onion in a large, deep skillet and mash it into smaller pieces. Cook over medium-low heat until the meat is fully cooked through and no pink remains. About 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another 1-2 until fragrant. Drain grease and return meat to skillet.
Add Perfect Marinara Sauce, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, basil and grated Parmesan to the same skillet as the meat. Stir to combine and cover and bring to a simmer.
While the sauce is simmering, cook your dried pasta according to package instructions.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine meat sauce, cooked pasta and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese in a 13x9 baking dish and stir until combined. Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese and cook on the middle rack until cheese is melted. About 15-20 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!
Leftover Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezer Option: Cooked mostaccioli can be stored in a freezer bag or container for up to 3 months.
Make Ahead Option: Follow recipe prep instructions and store uncooked and combined mostaccioli in the fridge for up to 24 hours. When ready to eat follow recipe baking instructions.
Crockpot Option: Baked mostaccioli can be placed in the crockpot on WARM to keep fresh for hours. Stir occasionally to avoid the pasta from sticking to the bottom.
Re-warming Instructions: Microwave: Place pasta in a microwave fast bowl and cover. Warm for 60 seconds or until warmed through. Oven: Place in a large baking dish and bake at 350 for 15 minutes until warmed through. Crockpot: Place in crockpot on LOW for 1 hour. After 1 hour switch to WARM and stir.