Baked mostaccioli is a delicious and easy to prepare dish of pasta, red sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. With or without lines or ridges, the hollow, tubular body of the pasta serves as a well for collecting your favorite sauce. Customize the basic recipe with some other choice ingredients. With a little imagination, you'll have a baked mostaccioli meal in less than an hour.
Cook mostaccioli pasta just until it becomes pliable. It should no longer be crunchy, but still firm to the bite -- or al dente -- so it won’t become mushy as it absorbs the sauce while baking. Submerge the dry pasta in about six quarts of rapidly boiling water for roughly 10 minutes. Stir occasionally and drain well.
Use any combination of Italian cheeses in a baked pasta dish. Shred or thinly slice mozzarella and provolone cheeses; grate Parmesan, Asiago or Romano; or crumble ricotta cheese. Cook any meat you want to add in advance. Brown ground beef or Italian sausage for a loose meat filling. Or broil sausage links or chicken breasts, and slice them into bite-size pieces. Other options are sliced Italian meatballs, chopped bacon or prosciutto.
A simple marinara is delicious with ground beef or Italian sausage, or spice up the meal with an Arrabiatta sauce. Creamy Alfredo or Tuscan sauces complement grilled chicken, while creamy vodka sauce works well with both red meats and poultry. Save time in the kitchen by using store-bought jars of sauce.
Coat a baking dish with a thin layer of olive oil and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Starting with the pasta, layer all ingredients -- pasta, sauce, meat and cheese -- then repeat the layers until they reach about 1/4 of an inch from the top of the dish. Top the pasta with sliced or shredded cheese. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake until the top turns bubbly with dots of golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes.