Pasta al Forno


If you’re craving a big warm hug in food form, this classic Pasta al Forno has you covered! This Italian baked pasta combines a rich homemade meat sauce with perfectly al dente noodles and loads of melty, creamy cheeses for the ultimate cozy, comforting dish. It’s like a warm blanket for your soul and tastebuds.

Pasta al Forno, which simply means “pasta from the oven,” is the kind of rustic, homestyle Italian fare that instantly transports you to a lively Nonna’s kitchen. Hearty and soul-satisfying, it strikes that glorious balance between satisfying and indulgent without being too heavy. Essentially the Italian version of down-home mac and cheese but even better!

This is the pasta al forno recipe you’ll want to keep on hand for effortless entertaining, big family gatherings, or just anytime you need a cozy meal that feels like a great big hug. Assemble it ahead of time and just pop it in the oven when you’re ready for cheesy, baked pasta perfection.

What Makes This the Best Pasta al Forno

  • The homemade bolognese-style meat sauce is deeply savory and rich
  • Double cheeses like melty mozzarella and salty pecorino add decadence
  • Cooking the pasta just shy of al dente keeps it al dente after baking
  • A splash of starchy pasta water creates an unbelievably creamy, silky texture
  • Endlessly versatile to add extra veggies, proteins, or flavorful mix-ins

The heart of this incredible baked pasta is the homemade Italian meat sauce. A base of browned pork and Italian sausage gets simmered until luxuriously hearty in a tomato puree that’s been seasoned to perfection. Nutty pecorino romano and stringy, elastic mozzarella melt throughout for pockets of glorious, gooey cheese goodness.

Then comes the magic trick – adding a big splash of the starchy pasta cooking water. As the pasta finishes baking in the oven, it releases starches that emulsify with the sauce, creating an impossibly luscious and velvety texture, no cream required! It’s like the pasta gets cooked twice for double the flavor.

This is a wonderfully make-ahead dish that’s great for potlucks or entertaining. Simply assemble everything completely, pop it in the fridge, and bake it off when your guests arrive. Your kitchen will be perfumed with the scent of tomato sauce, browned meat, herbs and melty cheese – it’s utterly mouthwatering!

How to Make the Best Baked Pasta al Forno

  • Brown the ground pork, spicy Italian sausage and onions
  • Simmer in luscious tomato puree until extra rich and flavorful
  • Cook pasta very al dente, reserving 1-2 cups of starchy cooking water
  • Toss hot pasta with meat sauce, cheeses, and splash of pasta cooking water
  • Transfer to a baking dish and top with more cheese
  • Bake until hot, bubbly and deliciously melty and creamy!

Tips for the Creamiest Pasta al Forno

  • Cook pasta very al dente – it continues cooking in the oven
  • Don’t skip the starchy pasta cooking water – it creates the unctuous sauce
  • Use good quality cheese that melts beautifully like fresh mozzarella
  • Grate the cheese yourself from a block instead of buying it pre-shredded
  • Let it rest 5-10 minutes after baking before serving for perfect sliceability

Whether you’re looking for serious comfort food or need an easy make-ahead dish for a crowd, this authentic Italian Pasta al Forno recipe has you covered and then some! Loaded with homemade meat sauce, perfectly al dente noodles and loads of gooey melted cheese, it’s a total crowd pleaser. Just don’t be surprised when you start fighting for the crispy, cheesy edges! This is cozy baked pasta at its best.

Pasta al Forno (Italian Baked Pasta)

This Italian baked pasta combines a rich homemade meat sauce with perfectly al dente noodles and loads of melty
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 1 lb rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 6 oz Italian sausage casings removed
  • 3 cups tomato puree/passata
  • 1 tsp salt plus more for pasta water
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese grated
  • 2 oz pecorino romano cheese grated


  • In a skillet, cook the onion in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the pork and sausage meat and cook until browned and crumbled.
  • Pour in the tomato puree, 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, adjusting seasoning as needed.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni 3-4 minutes shy of package instructions for very al dente, reserving 1-2 cups of starchy pasta cooking water before draining.
  • In a large bowl, toss the hot drained pasta with the meat sauce, 3/4 of the mozzarella and pecorino, and 1-2 splashes of pasta cooking water until a creamy sauce forms. Add more cooking water as needed for desired sauciness.
  • Transfer the pasta mixture to a 3qt baking dish and top with remaining cheeses. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes until hot and melty.
  • Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Make ahead: Assemble completely, cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking. You may need to bake a little longer from refrigerated.

Top pasta al forno with parsley, basil or chili flakes! Serve with garlic bread and a salad for an epic Italian feast.