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Baked Mostaccioli

Embark on a culinary journey that combines the heartiness of Italian pasta with the comforting embrace of a baked casserole. In today’s exploration, we uncover the secrets behind Baked Mostaccioli—a delightful dish that marries the simplicity of tube-shaped pasta with layers of rich meat sauce and gooey melted cheese. Join us as we dive into the world of pasta perfection, where every bite is a symphony of flavors that promises to become a staple in your family’s repertoire.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound mostaccioli pasta
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, for a hint of heat)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, chopped (for garnish)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat and Prep: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Cook the mostaccioli pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Savory Start: In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef. Add chopped onions and minced garlic, sautéing until the onions are translucent. Pour in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, dried oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes (if using), salt, and black pepper. Let the sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld into a rich and savory meat sauce.
  3. Pasta Perfection: Combine the cooked mostaccioli pasta with the prepared meat sauce, ensuring an even coating of the pasta with the luscious sauce.
  4. Cheesy Layers: In a greased 9×13-inch baking dish, create the first layer by spreading half of the saucy mostaccioli. Top it with a generous layer of shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheeses.
  5. Repeat and Finish: Repeat the layering process with the remaining mostaccioli and cheese. The final layer should be a lavish topping of mozzarella and Parmesan, creating a golden and gooey crown.
  6. Bake to Melty Bliss: Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. The inviting aroma will signal that your Baked Mostaccioli is reaching pasta perfection.
  7. Garnish and Serve: Once out of the oven, let the Baked Mostaccioli rest for a few minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped basil for a burst of herbaceous freshness. Slice and serve this delightful creation to eager and delighted guests.

Cook Notes:

  • For a meatier option, consider adding cooked and crumbled Italian sausage or ground pork to the meat sauce.
  • Enhance the sauce’s depth of flavor by incorporating a splash of red wine during the simmering process.

Variations:

  1. Vegetarian Twist: For a meatless version, omit the ground beef and add sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, and zucchini to the sauce for a veggie-packed delight.
  2. Three-Cheese Extravaganza: Experiment with a blend of Italian cheeses such as fontina, provolone, and Asiago for a nuanced and indulgent cheese profile.

Serving Suggestions:

  1. Garlic Bread Companion: Serve your Baked Mostaccioli with a side of garlic bread to soak up the flavorful sauce and complement the pasta’s richness.
  2. Fresh Salad Harmony: Balance the meal with a crisp garden salad dressed with a light vinaigrette for a refreshing contrast.

Make-Ahead Marvel: Assemble the Baked Mostaccioli up to the baking stage, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking. This make-ahead option is perfect for busy days or entertaining guests.

Keto and Low-Carb Options:

  1. Zoodle Adventure: Replace traditional mostaccioli with zucchini noodles (zoodles) for a low-carb alternative. Spiralize fresh zucchini and layer it in place of pasta.
  2. Cauliflower Collaboration: Swap mostaccioli with cauliflower florets for a keto-friendly version. The cauliflower absorbs the flavors of the sauce beautifully.

Baked Mostaccioli is not just a pasta dish; it’s a celebration of comfort and indulgence that brings together the simplicity of Italian pasta with the warmth of a baked casserole. As you savor each forkful, let the layers of savory meat sauce and gooey melted cheese transport you to a place of culinary delight. Whether shared with loved ones or enjoyed as a comforting weeknight dinner, this dish is a testament to the joy that comes from the union of pasta and baked goodness. So, embrace the allure of Baked Mostaccioli and let the flavors of Italy elevate your dining experience to new heights. Buon Appetito!

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