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Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Diana Johnson is a recipe developer, photographer, writer and the creator of Eating Richly Even When You're Broke. She is passionate about helping people learn to cook and eat foods rich in nutrition and flavor, even on a tight budget, a...

Say goodbye to boring pasta casseroles

This twist on a pasta bake takes very little prep time but makes for an impressive presentation. Each wedge of pasta "cake" is packed with meaty sauce and gooey cheese. You might just let your kids have cake for dinner more often.

Pasta casserole is a classic kid-friendly dinner, but baking it as a cake turns it into a special treat. Meat sauce from a jar makes this so easy that you can whip it up in just 30 minutes.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Start by cooking your noodles a couple of minutes less than the package instructions, and then toss them with Parmesan cheese. This will help them to stick together in the cake shape.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray, and then hold the pan at about a 45-degree angle. Pack your noodles into the pan, standing them on their ends. You'll want them packed pretty tightly, so don't snack on any of the cooked noodles — you'll need them all!

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Pour the jar of sauce on top of the noodles.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Use a spatula to spread the sauce around and to pack it into the noodles.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Make sure to put your "cake" on a rimmed baking sheet to catch escaping juices. I used a foil-lined pizza pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, and then bake for another 5 minutes.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Sprinkle your herbs on top of the melted cheese, and use a spatula to press them in. Bake for 5 more minutes.

Remove your rigatoni cake from the oven, and let it sit for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Cut into wedges to serve.

 Let them eat (rigatoni) cake!

Savory rigatoni cake recipe

Serves 8

Ingredients and supplies:

  • 1 pound rigatoni noodles
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 (24 ounce) jar Italian sausage tomato sauce (I used Bertolli Italian Sausage, Garlic & Romano)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped herbs (I used oregano, basil and parsley)
  • 1 round 9-inch springform pan
  • Nonstick cooking spray (like Pam)
  • 1 rimmed baking sheet


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray your springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, and set it aside.
  2. Boil the pasta for 2 minutes less than the cooking instructions on the package. Drain well.
  3. Toss the pasta with Parmesan cheese, and then pack it into the greased pan, standing the noodles on their ends.
  4. Pour the sauce onto the pasta, and use a spatula to spread it around and to press it into the hollows of the noodles.
  5. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet (I used a pizza pan), and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the mozzarella on top.
  7. Bake for another 5 minutes, sprinkle herbs on top of the cheese, and use a spatula to press them into the melted cheese.
  8. Bake for an additional 5 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden.
  9. Remove the rigatoni cake from the oven, and let it sit 10 minutes before removing it from the pan and cutting it into wedges to serve.

More kid-friendly dinners

Quinoa chicken nuggets
Raining meatballs scene
Chicken spaghetti casserole

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