Enjoy an easy Italian-inspired dinner that has a kick with this spicy vodka pasta bake recipe! It's got sausage, pasta, and fresh basil in a rich and spicy sauce along with loads of melty cheese.
Try my Chicken Arrabiata Pasta next for another fiery favorite.
This post is sponsored by our long-term partner DeLallo – thank you for supporting the brands that keep Salt & Lavender cooking! I only work with brands whose products I love. All opinions are my own.
Why you'll love it
When I was thinking about what to create next with DeLallo's irresistible products that have the best hand-selected ingredients, I realized I was up to my elbows in shellbows and figured that using them in a simple pasta bake would be a genius idea. Spoiler alert: it was. They're perfect little pockets for all that mouthwatering spicy vodka sauce!
This cheesy baked pasta checks all the boxes for a comforting family meal that's simple to make. Delicious pasta and sausage smothered in a tomato vodka sauce that has an irresistible heat? Check. Plenty of mozzarella, and it's baked to golden perfection? Check. Authentic Italian ingredients made true to tradition that are completely affordable? Check!
What goes into it
- Pasta - DeLallo's shellbows are a signature hybrid between shells and elbows, and the name is almost as fun to say as it is to eat
- Italian sausage - I chose mild, but feel free to use a different variety
- Onion and garlic - our flavorful aromatics. I recommend using sweet (Vidalia) onions, but yellow also works.
- DeLallo Pomodoro Spicy Vodka Sauce - the star of this baked pasta recipe. Turn up the heat with this spicy and bright tomato sauce that has handpicked ripe Italian plum tomatoes and is so velvety with fresh cream, parmesan, and pecorino romano!
- Fresh basil - for a pop of brightness that perfectly complements the sauce. It's tomatoes' best friend, so I always have some in my garden.
- Mozzarella - it's a wonderful melting cheese for that ooey, gooey topping
Why choose DeLallo?
- Because they totally know what they're doing when it comes to all things pasta! It comes from a town near Naples, near the Amalfi Coast, famed for being the birthplace of pasta. All their products are made with the highest quality ingredients using traditional Italian pasta-making methods, so you know it's good.
- They're a third generation family-owned company that started out as a small marketplace in Pennsylvania. Today you can buy all their delicious pasta and sauces, antipasti, and more on the DeLallo website so that you can effortlessly enjoy the Italian experience in your own kitchen.
How to make this spicy vodka pasta bake
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Boil a large pot of salted water for the shellbows. Cook them for one minute less than package directions. Preheat the oven to 375F. Sauté the sausage and onion in an ovenproof skillet until browned. Stir in the garlic.
Reduce the heat, and then add in the spicy vodka sauce to the skillet along with the basil. Let it heat through, and then toss with the cooked drained pasta.
Spread the pasta and sauce in an even layer. Top with cheese, and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes. Broil for a bit if you'd like, watching it carefully. Season with salt & pepper if desired, and enjoy!
- Don't own a large oven-safe skillet? No problem! Simply transfer everything to a baking dish prior to adding the cheese (step 6).
- For pasta bakes, it's important to boil the pasta for less time than usual since it will continue cooking in the oven. This will ensure it's not overcooked.
Substitutions and variations
- If you prefer a mild vodka sauce, try DeLallo's Pomodoro Creamy Vodka Sauce instead.
- Ground beef will work in place of the Italian sausage. Keep in mind that you may need to drain some of the fat once done browning it, though.
Leftovers and storage
- Keep leftovers of this spicy pasta bake in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
- Reheat in the microwave or a covered saucepan over a low heat. The pasta will soak up the sauce the longer it sits, however. You could add in a splash more of the vodka sauce if needed to revive it a little.
- I don't recommend freezing the leftovers. It won't come out right when thawed.
What to serve with it
- It's great with a light Arugula Salad for a fresh and simple pairing.
- A slice of crusty bread is a great choice, of course. I like to serve it with little individual bowls for everyone that have a good quality olive oil like DeLallo's Private Reserve EVOO and a splash of balsamic vinegar for dipping the bread into.
Love spicy pasta sauces? Did you try this cozy pasta bake? I'd love it if you left me a comment or review below. You can also find me on Instagram to show me your creations!
Spicy Vodka Pasta Bake
- 16 ounces DeLallo Shellbows Pasta
- 16 ounces Italian sausage meat
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (25.25 oz) jar DeLallo Pomodoro Spicy Vodka Sauce
- 1 handful fresh basil torn
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Boil a large, salted pot of water for the shellbows. Cook them for 11 minutes (one minute less than al dente). Drain and set aside until needed.
- Preheat your oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
- Meanwhile, add the sausage meat and onions to a large ovenproof skillet (at least 12"). If you prefer, you can use a regular skillet and transfer everything to a baking dish for step 6. Sauté for 10 minutes or until browned.
- Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Reduce the heat to medium, then add the spicy vodka sauce and basil to the skillet. Let it heat through for a couple of minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss well, then spread it in an even layer.
- Top with the cheese and bake for 15 minutes, then broil if desired to brown the cheese. Season with salt & pepper if needed and enjoy!
- For a higher sauce-to-pasta ratio, use 12 oz. pasta (3/4 of the package).
- If you prefer a milder vodka sauce, try DeLallo's Pomodoro Creamy Vodka Sauce.
Yum yum yum! I’ve made this recipe a couple of times now and it always comes out amazing! I’ve used both the spicy vodka sauce and the creamy vodka sauce and both ways are great!
I'm thrilled to hear that, Bee! 😀
Daniel Barthel says
This has become a goto for the two of us. Even 1/2 a recipe is good for two meals for the two of us. The shellbows are impossible to find here in Phoenix, so got them direct. You might also consider Rao's vodka sauce. It is excellent.
I'm glad you enjoyed it, Daniel!! 🙂
Whats the best mozzarella? Yours melted so beautifully!!!
Hi Amanda! I live in Canada, and I think I used the Cracker Barrel brand (just shredded mozza in a bag). When I'm in the US, I love how Tillamook melts. 🙂
How lucky am I to have found your website!! I appreciate your detailed Instructions, substitution suggestions and accompaniment options!! Well done! Making your spicy vodka pasta bake for my dinner guests tonight!!
Aww thank you, Amelia!! 🙂 I am so happy you found me!