I’m a huge pasta lover and I have a sure fire fabulous Italian entree for you today! Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs is so mouthwatering you will savor every bite. No kidding. Homemade meatballs are cooked in a spaghetti sauce mixture, then layered with a rigatoni mixture that includes ricotta and parmesan cheeses. The casserole is baked and topped with lots of cheese so it’s plenty gooey and plenty delicious.
Italian pasta dishes have been some of my favorite foods to eat ever since I moved away from home at 17. I never grew up eating anything Italian or anything with tomatoes. That’s because my dad grew up during the depression and one winter all they had to eat was canned tomatoes from their garden.
They had tomatoes a hundred different ways but he got so sick of them he refused to eat them after he became an adult. Consequently, the only times I remember eating spaghetti as a child, were on two or three occasions when my dad was traveling for his company so Mom made it for the rest of us kids.
One thing you absolutely cannot scrimp on in this recipe is the ground beef. If you use anything LESS than 93% lean (96% is better when you can find it), you will end up with a lot of grease in the spaghetti sauce as the meatballs cook. If you want the ease of cooking meatballs in spaghetti sauce (to avoid excess oils from frying), you have to use a high concentration of beef versus fat and other fillers like you would find in a 80/20% ground beef mixture or worse.
You can bake the meatballs in the oven and then add them after you’ve drained the grease, but then you lose all the savory tomato flavor that you gain by cooking the meatballs in the sauce (which is why they are melt-in-your-mouth good in the first place!)
While this recipe has quite a few steps, it is one of those recipes you’ll adore after you make it. It’s truly a heavenly concoction that you’re family will love — especially if you, like me, love anything pasta or anything tomatoes. For those of you who need a gluten free recipe, 4C now makes gluten free bread crumbs that are available at Wal-Mart. If you use a gluten free penne (I’ve never seen gluten free ziti or rigatoni), that’s about as close as you’re going to get to the original recipe and still maintain a gluten free entree.
The first time I sampled Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs was about 10-12 years ago. One of the gals in our Sunday school class brought this to a potluck. She had combined a few recipes (back before Pinterest, food blogs or other food sites were so popular) and the outcome was so spectacular I asked her for the recipe.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve made this recipe. Our pastor called me early one Monday morning a few weeks ago and asked if I could bring a meal to a family who was having a heart procedure done at the hospital that day. I racked my brain for things I could make quickly, so I dashed off to the store for the ingredients to make this dish, and pulled Easy French Bread and Monster Cookies out of the freezer to defrost.
All in all it turned out to be a very satisfying meal for them and while I was at it, I made a small casserole for us for dinner that night as well! The cook always gets to sample the goodies. 🙂 If you love Italian, give Baked Rigatoni and Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs a try. Prepare yourself for a drool-worthy experience as you experience comfort food at its finest.
Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs is so delectable you will probably want multiple servings!
The meatballs in this recipe rock!
Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs is an Italian entree is one of my favorites.
Here’s what I did.
I used these ingredients to make the meatballs. The Italian seasonings and cheese provide needed zip.
NOTE: You MUST use a 93% or 96% lean ground beef to make these meatballs or when they cook in the sauce a lot of grease will ooze out into the spaghetti sauce.
Combine all of the meatball ingredients and mix thoroughly with your hands.
I used these ingredients for the spaghetti sauce and the casserole itself. Note the meatball mixture in the background.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
Add meatballs. Cover with lid and do not stir meatballs for at least 20 minutes or they will break apart. Continue cooking meatballs in simmering sauce about 20 minutes longer until meatballs are cooked through.
Combine some of the sauce (minus meatballs), part of the cheeses, egg, seasonings, and the cooked and drained rigatoni in a large bowl.
Stir well until combined.
Grease a 9×13″ glass baking dish. Spread two cups of the spaghetti sauce with half of the meatballs in prepared dish. Spread half the rigatoni mixture over top of the spaghetti sauce.
Cover with remaining spaghetti sauce and meatballs. Push meatballs down into the dish.
Cover with remaining rigatoni mixture and remaining parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
Remove foil and sprinkle with additional mozzarella cheese.
Bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until cheese has melted.
I’m a meatball lover so this is one of my favorite main dishes.
Are you drooling yet? Baked Rigatoni with Homemade Melt-In-Your-Mouth Meatballs will do the trick!
Here’s the recipe.
BAKED RIGATONI WITH HOMEMADE MELT-IN-YOUR-MOUTH MEATBALLS
(Recipe adapted from Carrie Garrett, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Cedar Hill, TX; Meatball recipe adapted from Kitten Cal’s Kitchen)
- 16 oz. rigatoni pasta, uncooked
- 1 24-oz. jar Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic spaghetti sauce
- 1 24-oz. jar Classico Spicy Tomato and Basil spaghetti sauce
- 1 24-oz. jar Prego Three cheese spaghetti sauce (or sauce of your choice)
- (You will be cooking the meatballs in this sauce first)
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 8-oz. bags shredded mozzarella cheese, divided use
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 2 tbsp. dried parsley
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- 2 tsp. oregano, divided
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1 tsp. fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided use
- cooking spray
- Meatballs (recipe below)
- Cook rigatoni according to package directions; drain.
- Add 1 tsp. oregano, basil and fennel seed to the sauce and cook meatballs as directed below.
- After meatballs are finished cooking, in large bowl, combine rigatoni, 2 cups spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, 8-oz. bag of the mozzarella cheese, ½ cup parmesan cheese, parsley, egg, oregano, garlic powder and pepper.
- In a greased 9″ x 13″ pan, pour 2 cups spaghetti sauce and ½ the meatballs on the bottom of the pan; spread rigatoni mixture evenly over sauce.
- Top with more meatballs and remaining spaghetti sauce and spread evenly; sprinkle with remaining half cup of parmesan cheese.
- Push the meatballs down into the rigatoni mixture.
- Bake covered at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
- Then top with additional mozzarella.
- Bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until cheese has melted.
- 1 ½-2 lbs. 93% lean beef (you can use a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal)
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp. minced garlic from a jar, or about 5-6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
- 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
- 1/3 cup milk (can use up to 1/2 cup milk)
- 2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)
- Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Shape into small meatballs.
- Drop the meatballs into simmering pasta sauce.
- Cover with lid and do not stir for at least 20 minutes or the meatballs will break apart.
- Continue cooking in the simmering sauce for another 20 minutes or until done.
- If desired, you can cook the sauce a little longer to meld the flavors.
- Otherwise, follow the directions above to assemble the casserole.
If you’re an Italian pasta lover, you’ll adore this recipe!
The homemade meatballs really do melt in your mouth!