This easy baked rigatoni recipe has Italian sausage, marinara sauce, loads of cheese, and it feeds a crowd. It's simple to make and super comforting on busy weeknights!
Why it's so good
If you're a fan of Baked Ziti, it's likely that you will also enjoy this rigatoni pasta bake with sausage. There's something just so special about baked pasta. It warms you right up, and it's easier to make than a Classic Lasagna but with similar flavors. Along with the layer of cheese on top, I also included ricotta and parmesan inside, so this meal is a cheese lover's delight!
This baked rigatoni is also an affordable recipe and has a fewer ingredients than others I've seen out there but without sacrificing taste. It's made mostly from scratch apart from the marinara sauce, so you can feel good about serving this in your home. It'll feed the whole family, and it makes fantastic leftovers too.
What goes into it
- Rigatoni - it's a wide tube-shaped pasta holds up well to the hearty meat sauce in this pasta bake
- Italian sausage - use ground sausage meat or buy sausages and take the meat out of the casings. Try hot Italian sausages for more kick!
- Onion and garlic - I like to use sweet (Vidalia) onions, and this garlic press makes it simple to mince the cloves. No peeling necessary.
- Crushed red pepper flakes - there's not enough here to make this spicy but just gives it a gentle warmth
- Marinara sauce - grab a jar of your favorite brand
- Ricotta and parmesan - for the irresistible inner layer of cheese. I prefer whole milk ricotta, and I freshly grate my parmesan from a block with my Microplane for better taste and texture.
- Mozzarella and cheddar - they're two good melting cheeses for that ooey, gooey, and golden topping
Make ahead tips
- For the fridge: assemble up to a day ahead of time, refrigerate, and then bake according to recipe below. You may need to add a few more minutes onto the bake time to ensure the middle is nice and hot.
- For the freezer: assemble it in the casserole dish and then cover it tightly and freeze it for up to 3 months. You may want to add a little more sauce if you're planning on freezing it. Thaw for 24 hours in the fridge, then bake it as directed. If you need to bake it from frozen, it'll take a bit longer, so bake it (covered with foil) until the middle is hot, and then broil the cheese at the end.
- Don't put a freezing cold ceramic casserole dish straight in the oven, though, as there's a chance it'll crack. I'd let it warm up a bit on the counter first.
How to make baked rigatoni
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Preheat the oven, and boil the pasta for two minutes less than the package indicates. Drain it and set aside. Meanwhile, in a skillet, sauté the sausage meat along with the onion. Once cooked, stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes, followed by the marinara sauce.
To the pot with the drained rigatoni, stir in about half of the sausage and marinara mixture. Transfer it to a fairly deep 9x13 casserole or lasagna dish, spreading it in an even layer. Spoon on the ricotta. It doesn't need to be perfect!
Add the freshly grated parmesan on top of the ricotta, and on top of that spoon on the other half of the meat sauce mixture. Lastly, top with the cheddar and mozzarella for the final layer. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, then broil until bubbly and hot.
Substitutions and variations
- Try swapping the Italian sausage for ground beef if you want to change it up a little.
- You can use another tomato-based pasta sauce instead of marinara.
- Skip the ricotta cheese if it's not your thing. In that case, I'd just mix all the pasta with all the sauce in step 6.
- Don't have rigatoni? You can swap for another kind of pasta that's fairly similar in size and shape. Try penne.
Leftovers and storage
- Any leftovers of this baked rigatoni will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Reheat in the microwave until warmed through or in a covered saucepan over a fairly low heat. You can always add in a little more marinara sauce if it's looking a touch dry.
- I wouldn't recommend freezing leftovers as cooked pasta doesn't always keep the right texture once thawed.
Did you make this rigatoni bake? Any questions? Talk to me in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you. As always, you can find me on Instagram to show me your creations.
Four Cheese Baked Rigatoni
- 1 pound uncooked rigatoni pasta
- 16 ounces Italian sausage
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- 3 cups (24 oz.) marinara sauce
- 8 ounces ricotta
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- Boil a large, salted pot of water for the pasta. Cook it 2 minutes less than package directions indicate. Once it's done, drain it and add it back to the pot it was cooked in and set aside.
- Meanwhile, add the sausage meat, along with the onion, to a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook it for about 10 minutes, breaking it up with your spoon as you go along and stirring occasionally, until it's cooked.
- To the skillet, stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes, then continue cooking it for another minute or so.
- To the skillet, stir in the marinara sauce and warm it through for a few minutes.
- To the pot with the pasta, add in about half of the skillet sausage/sauce mixture and give it a stir. Transfer it to a 9x13 baking/casserole dish and spread it in an even layer.
- Add the ricotta to the baking dish (you don't need to be too neat... I just use a spoon to put dollops here and there) and then sprinkle the parmesan evenly over top.
- Spoon the rest of the sausage/sauce mixture evenly on top of the parmesan/ricotta layer.
- Sprinkle on the mozza/cheddar for the final cheesy topping.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, and then broil for a few minutes to brown the cheese (watch it carefully). Let sit for about 5 minutes prior to serving, then enjoy!
- Serves 6-8 depending on how much people eat/if you serve it with a side.
- For the sausage, you can use anything in the ballpark of 16 oz/1 lb. Here in Canada I get a 500g pack of Johnsonville mild Italian sausages and take the meat out of the casings.
- I used 2 cups of a shredded mozza/cheddar blend to save time, but feel free to grate your own cheeses.
- See blog post for process photos.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.