Pizza, spaghetti, lasagna, cheesy garlic bread and all things Italian, my family loves! There is not a food I adore much more than a big dish of loaded mostaccioli casserole. Its soft pasta, creamy cheeses and the tang of zesty tomato sauce are – in my opinion – a heavenly Italian trio.
I found a similar recipe to this mostaccioli casserole 24 years ago in one of the many cookbooks I had bought, then tweaked it a bit to make it my own. I am a connoisseur of cookbooks…all books, actually. I love to read, always have and getting lost in a good book is a favorite pastime of mine. My interests vary from historical fiction, psychology, biographies, nursing journals to my weakness of cookbooks.
In fact, when I watch Beauty and the Beast and they show the scene of the library, shelves bulging under the weight of thousands of hard cover books, stretching from floor to the ceiling, books in every nook and cranny, I get palpitations of pure delight. So perusing cookbooks for new recipes – both easy and challenging – is a regular endeavor for me. When I stumble on one that is obviously a jewel, like this mostaccioli casserole, it becomes a part of the family.
I love lasagna, but hate to make it. I don’t like cooking the sheets of pasta. They tend to stick together or tear and I invariably underestimate the number of sheets of noodles I need to make the layers I want. I inevitably end up having to cook more pasta to get it just right. The kitchen, meanwhile, looks like a bomb went off and the whole affair loses its charm.
I rarely go out to a restaurant for Italian, pizza being the only exception. We used to do date night at an Italian restaurant when we were first married. I figured I'd order the thing I loved, but hated to make. Yes, my beloved lasagna! We’d get dolled up (my word, definitely not the husband’s), pay a babysitter, find and pay for parking and eagerly anticipate our meal. The problem was, the better I got at cooking, the more often I left the restaurant feeling unsatisfied.
I realized I made a tastier version in my own kitchen, my mostaccioli casserole. Had I just made it, I’d be left with a big pan full of the savory delight to enjoy that night and leftovers to look forward to for the entire week. Dressing up, having someone else serve your meals and clean up is always a treat. But we now know what we like, so it’s usually a comfy t-shirt and sweats with a pile of our favorite movies and a big bowl of mostaccioli casserole to trump that date night.
Cheesy Mostaccioli Subs in for Lasagna
Mostaccioli casserole became my lasagna because it had all the same components, flavors and textures as traditional lasagna….and it's a lot easier to make.
- 1 pound bulk italian sausage
- 5 cups of spaghetti sauce extra if you like saucier pasta
- 2 pounds mostaccioli cooked and drained
- 15 ounces whole ricotta or cottage cheese
- 1/4 tsp garlic salt
- 1-2 tablespoon italian parsley
- 10-12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese plus a little extra to sprinkle on top
- 1/2 cup grated romano cheese plus a little extra to sprinkle on top
In a dutch oven, brown sausage and drain. Stir in mostaccioli noodles and sauce and set aside.
In a bowl combine ricotta, garlic salt, romano cheese, parsley and mozzarella cheese. Stir well to combine.
In a greased 13 x 9 inch glass dish, spread half of the mostaccioli mixture, then cover that in the cheese mixture. Pour the rest of the mostaccioli mixture to cover the cheese. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and grated romano cheese.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until bubbly at 375 degrees.
The nice thing about this dish is you can change it up based on your pantry supplies. If you don’t have mostaccioli, use shell pasta, spiral noodles or spaghetti. No ricotta on hand? I never have this. Just use small curd, whole milk cottage cheese. Don’t have italian sausage or don’t like it? Make it meatless. Add a lightly tossed salad and a loaf of crusty bread on the side of this mostaccioli casserole and you’re golden!