Renata’s Oven Baked Pasta

2015-07-09
  • Yield : 9X13 pan of thick, rich baked pasta for 5
  • Servings : 5
  • Prep Time : 5m
  • Cook Time : 45m
  • Ready In : 50m

No-Boil Oven Baked Party Pasta

Great for Easy-Peasy Weekday Meal Too!

Dry pasta, canned tomatoes, olive oil bake together in the oven are a dream team to be mixed with Parmesan cheese!
Dry pasta, canned tomatoes, olive oil bake together in the oven;  a dream team to be mixed with Parmesan cheese!

This has to be my favorite dish on earth.

Oven Baked Pasta is our family’s “GO TO” dish, because it requires so little effort!  It actually takes longer to read this recipe than it does to prepare it.

I have never met a person who didn’t like it.  Truly. In a vegan pinch, I have also omitted the cheese, and it tastes great! (I LOVE it with the cheese though. The vegans are missing out!)

The sound of this dry pasta hitting the oven dish gets my tummy rumbling. Plus, I think it’s so cool that you just let the dry pasta cook in the blended tomatoes.   The starches from the pasta mix with the tomatoes and oil to create the most velvety texture. And the tomatoes release this sweet, gorgeous flavor!

People are always so impressed and GOBBLE this dish up! I wish I could say 1 pound of this pasta feeds 6 people.  If I make it for my son, I would say it feeds ONE! Seriously though, this dish makes one 9×13 pan of baked rigatoni which will feed 5 people a sensible portion for dinner.

When I went out of town last week, my son texted me “do I double the time if I make double the batch of oven-baked pasta?”  Good question, and NO! If you would like to double the batch, use a pan twice the size, double ALL the ingredients, but keep the entire method & cooking time the SAME.

If a 17-year-old boy is willing to get up off the sofa in the summer to bake this pasta, it must be great! I wonder if he ate the double batch all by himself with a fork? Hmmm.

I have made this oven baked pasta using rigatoni, mezzi rigatoni, farfalle, small shells, and orecchiette. You want to make sure you use a small, knobby piece of pasta so it can swim in the tomato sauce and cook evenly.

ALWAYS USE DE CECCO. I cannot be held responsible for any other pasta made in the USA.

Personally, I ALWAYS use “whole Italian tomatoes” vs chopped or blended tomatoes.  I know this seems goofy because I go to the trouble to blend the whole tomatoes, when you could just buy chopped or blended tomatoes.  I like the taste of the whole tomatoes better when I blend them myself. Plus I love the way when you blend them yourself, you leave some bits kinda messy and in hunks. But you can use already blended, crushed, chopped tomatoes too! But don’t buy crappy tomatoes! Buy organic, (Muir Glen are usually on sale and taste GOOD!), or buy San Marzano tomatoes GROWN IN ITALY like Carmelina or Rega Rega.  There are only 3 stars in this show, so make ’em count! 

I use these three ingredients so click on them for links to pic: DeCecco Rigatoni (Or mezzi rigatoni), Carmelina Italian Whole Peeled Tomatoes, and Colavita Extra Virgin Olive oil.

If you wanna get REALLY Italian you can skip the blender and just squish all the tomatoes up like my grandma did it–with her hands! When I am in a BIG hurry, I go all crazy and open two tomato cans, pour the liquid out the top into the dry pasta, and squish each can with my hand inside the can! (Then I just pour a little tap water into the empty can, swish it, dump in pan.)

But I am giving you the proper recipe in case you a) don’t wanna squirt tomato sauce all over your shirt, b) don’t wanna take your rings off, c) don’t wanna gross out any of your guests while you are making their dinner.

Variations:

I have made so many variations of this dish it would make your empty tomato can spin.  If I am making this for a week night dinner, I try to pump up the power by adding a bag of frozen peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking time and stirring through to force my kids to eat green.

Other variations I have tried:

  • Adding a fist full of fresh basil

  • Adding a bag of frozen cauliflower & stirring in during last 5 minutes of cooking time

  • Putting cheese on half pan/no cheese on other half for vegan diners (my daughter)

  • For Catering Gigs/Events: doubling ingredients and putting in giant foil baking pan, but ya gotta put THAT on a baking sheet or it will collapse!

  • Combining with Renata’s Easy Peasy Organic Meatballs (SLURP!)

  • Adding finely minced shallots and garlic at beginning (I didn’t like it! Simple is better!)

When I have to bring pasta dishes to any events at school, this is the only pan the NEVER has a drop of pasta left in it.  Ever.  This is truly a “One Pot Wonder”!

And did I mention, you only have ONE pan to clean up? No stove. Heaven!

Ingredients

  • A 1 lb box De Cecco rigatoni (or: mezzi rigatoni, shells, farfalle)
  • 2 LARGE (28 oz) Italian whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • a few twists of freshly ground pepper

Method

Step 1

PREHEAT OVEN TO 350F.

Step 2

In glass or metal 9x13 baking dish, pour one box DeCecco rigatoni, DRY, into the dish. (YES! UNCOOKED AND DRY!)

Step 3

Pour oil, salt & pepper onto DRY pasta in dish and stir to combine EVENLY. It'll seem weird. Don't sweat it!

Step 4

Pour contents of one can of whole tomatoes into blender. Blitz 5-10 seconds until just kinda chunky but not super smooth. No big deal if you make it smooth. I just like it with hunky texture.

Step 5

Pour tomato mixture over oil-soaked pasta & stir to combine EVENLY.

Step 6

Pour contents of second can of whole tomatoes into blender. Blitz 5-10 seconds.

Step 7

Add second batch of tomato mixture to dry pasta/oil/tomato mixture & stir to combine EVENLY.

Step 8

Add 1/4 C water & stir to combine EVENLY. Every bite of pasta needs a nice bath of tomato/oil mixture!

Step 9

Bake uncovered at 350F for 15 minutes. Take dish out with oven gloves & stir to combine EVENLY. You want all the dry bits poking out the top to have a turn in the hot liquid on the bottom! And all the bottom wet parts need a chance to brown on the top.

Step 10

Put uncovered pasta dish back in oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

Step 11

With oven gloves, take baked pasta dish out and add 3/4 of the cup of grated Parmesan cheese & stir to combine EVENLY. It's going to become thicker, and the pasta will begin to become soft now after 30 minute mark. Some of the dry bits of pasta at the top may look a little brown or crunchy. Don't worry! Evenly mixing all the pasta will ensure everybody gets a chance to be dunked to the bottom of the tomato pool, and they will all come out soft, sweet, cheesy & gooey.

Step 12

Put uncovered pasta dish back in the oven and bake for 15 more minutes or until soft like ya like it, browned like ya like it!

Step 13

Pasta should be rich, thick, soft & tender after the total of 45 minutes. Take your baked rigatoni out of the oven and test to ensure pasta tender. It's YOUR kitchen so If it's not as soft as you like it, return it to the oven for 5 minutes or so. Some people like it "al dente" (firm to the bite) and some people like it super mushy. I prefer it just right!

Step 14

Remove baked rigatoni from the oven, sprinkle with a little more freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and serve. A great party dish for folks to serve themselves!

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Meet Renee Gough; writer, food enthusiast..

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