Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, cook the ground beef, onion, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, in a skillet set over medium heat, breaking the meat into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Off the heat, drain the grease.
Return the pot to medium heat and add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, brown sugar, basil, oregano, garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
Remove the skillet from the heat and add the cooked and drained noodles and stir to coat evenly with the sauce (if the skillet is too small, combine the noodles in sauce in the now-empty pasta pot).
In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese.
To assemble, spread half of the noodles in the bottom of the prepared pan. Dollop the ricotta mixture over the top and spread into a mostly even layer. Sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Layer the remaining noodles over the top followed by the rest of the mozzarella cheese.
Place the pasta bake on a foil-lined half sheet pan to catch any spillovers and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and heated through. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Pasta: any tube-shaped pasta should sub well for the penne. Sauce: you could easily sub in a 32-ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce in place of the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and seasonings.Ricotta Substitution: a lot of times if I don't have ricotta, I blend cottage cheese and it works brilliantly well as a sub for the ricotta (and it has a creamier, less grainy texture).Make-Ahead/Freezable: this pasta bake can be made ahead of time, assembled, covered with foil and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before baking. Add 15-20 minutes onto the baking time if baking straight from the refrigerator. To freeze, assemble the pasta bake. Cover with a double layer of greased aluminum foil (so the cheese doesn't stick). Bake, covered, straight from the freezer at 350 degrees F. for 90 minutes. Uncover and bake another 30-45 minutes until hot and bubbling.