‘The Pioneer Woman’: Ree Drummond’s Cheesy Pasta Bake Is a Cheap and Easy Casserole Recipe

Ree Drummond has an easy weeknight dinner idea that’s budget-friendly and meatless (but you can easily add meat, too!). Find out how to make The Pioneer Woman star’s cheesy rigatoni casserole.

Ree Drummond smiles while wearing a brightly colored top on the set of the 'Today' show in 2019
‘The Pioneer Woman’ star Ree Drummond | Tyler Essary/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Ree Drummond’s pasta bake is an easy make-ahead casserole recipe

Drummond demonstrated how to make her cheesy rigatoni pepper bake on an episode of The Pioneer Woman that featured her cheap and easy recipe ideas. She called it “a meatless marvel,” noting that she “bought an enormous bag of dry rigatoni” at the grocery store to keep as a pantry staple.

“This is going to feature very prominently in a delicious make-ahead casserole,” she explained. Drummond cooked and drained the pasta and got to work on the easy sauce. She sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil and butter, then added canned diced tomatoes and tomato paste to the pan.

“I love dried pasta. My pantry, at any given time, has about seven or eight shapes of dried pasta,” she noted. “And I love the standard shapes like penne and rigatoni, spaghetti and linguine because you can find them in these super huge bags. The little specialty pastas, not so much.”

Drummond added, “It’s always nice to pick one of the standard shapes when you’re trying to make a cheap and easy meal.”

The Pioneer Woman star seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

‘The Pioneer Woman’ star assembled the dish in layers

Drummond shared another money-saving tip for her recipe. She bought a big family-sized bag of mini peppers that she cut in half and removed the seeds from. “These are so great,” she said. “If you can find a family pack of bell peppers, that’s fine too. These mini peppers are so nice and sweet and I like them because they’re small so you can kind of decide where you want to put them. They’re a little bit easier to control than bell peppers, which you have to chop up.”

To assemble the casserole, Drummond added a layer of sauce, topped it with half the pasta, sprinkled on cubes of mozzarella cheese and parmesan, and half of the peppers. Then she repeated the layers. Drummond topped the pasta bake with a layer of sauce and parmesan.

Drummond covered the casserole refrigerated it to heat later in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 35 minutes. She allowed it to sit for 10 minutes and served the pasta bake with a side salad.

The full recipe is available on the Food Network website.

Drummond has a meaty version of her pasta casserole

Drummond shared that, while her recipe is a meatless casserole, you can always add meat too. She recommended adding ground beef or Italian sausage to the sauce.

Her cheesy sausage rigatoni recipe adds meat and uses jars of marinara sauce so it’s easy to pull together. Drummond crumbles in the sausage after cooking the onions in a skillet, adds crushed pepper, and cooks the meat. Then she adds the marinara sauce and cooks the mixture for another 5 minutes.

Drummond assembles the casserole just like the meatless version.

You can find the full recipe on the Food Network website.

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