There are many Italian baked pasta, or pasta al forno, recipes, the most common in the U.S. being lasagna and baked ziti. This particular dish is a bit reminiscent of baked ziti, though meatier and creamier.
Although this baked penne pasta recipe is traditionally considered a primo, it is hearty enough to stand as a meal on its own, perhaps accompanied by a green salad and some warm crusty bread.
You can also make this ahead of time and bake it upon arrival of your guests, or it can be frozen for when you need to put a hearty dinner on the table but don’t have the time. If you leave out the ragu, it is still delicious and will satisfy any of your vegetarian guests.