One bite of this saucy, cheesy casserole and I was instantly transported back to junior high and the carb-filled dinners where my basketball team squeezed around a table with paper plates piled high with the requisite homey baked pasta. Only those team dinners never included a meal as good as this!
Reminiscent of classic pepperoni pizza, this weeknight casserole is made with a mess of curly noodles in place of the doughy crust, just the right ratio of sauce to melted cheese, and thin slices of pepperoni that crisp up as they bake. You'll also love that it comes together in a pinch with just five ingredients.
The Best Pasta Bakes Start with Undercooked Pasta
The secret to success when making a pasta bake is simple: Always start with slightly uncooked pasta. Soggy, overcooked noodles are the quickest way to take this pizza-inspired casserole (or any pasta casserole, for that matter) from hero to zero in a flash.
Since the pasta cooks twice, first on the stovetop and then in the oven, overcooking can be a problem if it boils for too long. Take the pot off the stovetop just a couple minutes sooner than you normally would; when you pull the casserole from the oven later on, the noodles will be perfectly tender.
Pepperoni Pizza Baked Pasta
Olive oil, for greasing the baking dish
1 pound dried rotini pasta
32 ounces marinara sauce, divided
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 ounces thinly sliced pepperoni
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Lightly coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil; set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than suggested on package instructions until it's very al dente, as it will keep cooking when baked. Drain well.
Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Add 3 cups of the sauce and oregano and stir until combined. Stir in the pepperoni.
Pour half of the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese. Top with the remaining pasta. Spread the remaining sauce in an even layer over the pasta. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake until the top is lightly golden and the cheese is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.