The Crowd Favorite: Bolognese Pasta Casserole
Photo by Emily Luk
This bolognese pasta casserole is my favorite go-to pasta recipe I cook when I have guests over or when I am simply craving pasta! By finishing the bolognese pasta in the oven, the result is a crispy top layer and an abundance of flavor. The casserole can be cooked using a pot and an ovenproof pan. If you do not own an ovenproof pan, the cooking directions will tell you when to transfer the pasta mixture into a casserole dish.
For the marinara sauce, you can choose to make your own. However, I like to keep certain aspects of my recipes simple, so I usually use store-bought marinara. I have tried every brand of marinara sauce you can think of from the ones sold at Target to the ones sold at Trader Joes. My favorite line of marinara sauce is by Ragu Simply. Most of the time, I gravitate towards the Chunky Garden Vegetable Sauce, but you cannot go wrong with any of the flavors! The best part is Ragu Simply does a wonderful job at making the flavor of their sauce taste like a restaurant-style marinara.
For the secret ingredient. . . adding milk! Though it may seem strange, the addition of milk in the sauce is the most important part of the recipe. There has been the occasional time where I've forgotten to add in the milk, which has always left me wondering why the pasta didn't taste as creamy and “full.” Once homogenized (well-incorporated), the milk adds a richness to the bolognese sauce and a silky texture to the pasta. The result is a dish of duality- heavy and light thanks to the mixture of tomato and milk.
Everyone who has seen me cook this bolognese pasta has always been intrigued by the ingredients and process. They also never fail to gush about how delicious it is. I hope you also give this dish a taste and enjoy it as much as we do!
Serving Size: 3-5 people (Cut the recipe measurements in half to serve 2 people.)
1 lb box of penne pasta
pot of water
1 24 oz jar of marinara sauce
¾ cup milk
1 lb ground beef
crushed red pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
2. Boil pasta with a dash of salt for about 7-9 minutes or until al dente. Drain when ready.
3. Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof pan. Add in beef. Season with salt, oregano, basil, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes.
4. Pour marinara sauce into pan. Season marinara sauce with onion powder, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, oregano, and basil.
5. Add 3/4 cup of milk and stir.
6. Add in a few tablespoons of the starchy pasta water, which will help make the sauce come together even more.
7. Add desired amount of spinach to pan and cook for 3 minutes.
8. Transfer drained pasta into sauce and mix. (Optional: Transfer mixture into casserole dish.) Add mozzarella cheese on top. Sprinkle panko breadcrumbs. Drizzle olive oil on final layer.
9. Bake pasta for 15 minutes or until panko breadcrumbs are toasted brown.
10. Take out of oven. Top with fresh parsley.
Divide and enjoy. Buon appetito!