Kristin Cavallari’s Easy Pasta Casserole Starts With a Store-Bought Shortcut

And it only requires a handful of ingredients.

<p>Kristin Cavallari/Rao

Kristin Cavallari/Rao's Homemade

There are two foods that we are always in the mood for: pasta and casseroles. So, put them together and you’ve got an instant winner in our eyes—you don’t even want to know how many times we’ve made Stanley Tucci’s pasta casserole since that recipe dropped.

While we love Tucci’s creamy casserole, there’s another new celeb-approved pasta casserole recipe that has caught our eye. Kristin Cavallari’s Baked Penne with Kale and Caramelized Onion Sauce.

If you perked up at the words “caramelized onion sauce,” you’re not alone—and, boy, do we have some great news for you. You don’t have to stand over your stove for hours watching your onions slowly caramelize because Cavallari uses the easiest shortcut: a jar of Rao’s pasta sauce.

The brand recently announced that it's adding five new products to its robust lineup of jarred sauces and soups—including a new Caramelized Onion sauce that’s made with sweet caramelized onions and slowly simmered Italian tomatoes.

To coincide with the announcement, the “The Hills” actress developed this pasta bake specifically with Rao’s new sauce in mind. The simple, cheesy casserole is made with Rao’s Caramelized Onion sauce, penne, kale, ricotta, mozzarella cheese, and a few more ingredients and seasonings. The whole thing is ready in less than an hour and packed with delicious flavors that everyone will love. 

How To Make Kristin Cavallari’s Baked Penne with Kale and Caramelized Onion Sauce

<p>Kristin Cavallari/Rao's Homemade</p>

Kristin Cavallari/Rao's Homemade

Yields: 6 servings
This recipe was developed by Kristin Cavallari in partnership with Rao's Homemade.


  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the casserole dish

  • 4 ounces dried penne pasta

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 1⁄2 cups)

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs and stems removed, then chopped (about 4 cups)

  • 1 10-ounce container whole-milk ricotta

  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 jar Rao’s Homemade Caramelized Onion Sauce

  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

  2. Cook the penne according to package directions, but stop 1 minute before they’re fully cooked. Drain the pasta.

  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the kale and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

  4. Add the cooked pasta, ricotta, egg, oregano, salt, pepper, and 1⁄4 cup of the Rao’s Homemade Caramelized Onion sauce to the mixture and mix well.

  5. Spread 3⁄4 cup of the Rao’s Homemade Caramelized Onion Sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the pasta mixture, half of the remaining Rao’s Homemade Caramelized Onion Sauce, and half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Repeat the layers.

  6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese is melted, 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.