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This easy Baked Rigatoni with sausage, marinara sauce, and two different types of cheese is a classic pasta bake that’s pure comfort food! Pair the hearty, satisfying casserole with a Caesar salad and garlic bread for the ultimate family meal. It’s also a simple make-ahead dinner for busy days!

Overhead shot of two hands holding a pan of easy baked rigatoni with sausage

Italian Rigatoni Bake

Baked rigatoni is a casserole that’s made with rigatoni pasta and a Neapolitan-style tomato-based sauce that’s popular in Italian-American cuisine. Rigatoni is a tube-shaped pasta of varying lengths and diameters, which originated in Italy. It’s larger than penne and ziti, and sometimes slightly curved, though not as curved as elbow macaroni.

To make baked rigatoni, the pasta is typically boiled first, while the sauce is prepared separately. The cooked and drained rigatoni is then tossed with the sauce and sausage, layered in a dish with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and then baked in the oven.

What is the difference between Rigatoni and ziti?

Rigatoni and ziti might look similar at first, but they vary in both size and texture. First, rigatoni is larger than ziti, and often slightly curved. While the rigatoni has a larger opening, ziti is often longer. Rigatoni has ridges or grooves (which helps the sauce cling to the pasta), while ziti is often smooth.

Those differences aside, we’re not too particular around here. If you need to substitute penne or ziti for the rigatoni in this recipe, feel free! The pasta bake will still be delicious. Just make sure that you follow the cooking instructions for very al dente penne or ziti, according to your specific package.

Process shot showing how to make baked rigatoni with red sauce

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the simple ingredients that you’ll need for an easy baked rigatoni recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Rigatoni pasta: use an entire 1-lb. box of dry pasta. I like “mezzi rigatoni” which is slightly shorter than regular rigatoni (and therefore easier to eat without cutting).
  • Olive oil: to cook the sausage and onion.
  • Italian sausage: sweet or spicy, any variety will work. You can buy a pound of ground Italian sausage, or purchase the links and remove the casings yourself.
  • Onion: adds savory flavor to the casserole. I use a sweet Vidalia onion, but a white or yellow onion is fine, too.
  • Garlic and crushed red pepper flakes: add flavor and a bit of kick to the sauce.
  • Marinara sauce: pick a high-quality store-bought brand for a great shortcut. I like Rao’s marinara.
  • Fresh basil: a classic ingredient in any tomato-based Italian dish. Fresh herbs always have the best flavor, but you can substitute with about 1 tablespoon of dried basil when necessary.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish. Make sure to use plenty of salt in the pasta cooking water, too.
  • Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese: two different types of cheese add flavor to the casserole and hold it all together. The more cheese the better, right?!
Process shot showing how to make baked rigatoni

How to Make Baked Rigatoni with Sausage

While there are quite a few steps involved in preparing this dish, none of it is difficult! This recipe doesn’t need to be too labor-intensive either, so long as you have various components cooking at the same time. For instance, you can brown the sausage and simmer the sauce while the pasta boils. Let’s get started…

  1. Boil the rigatoni just until very al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the sausage and marinara sauce.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the meat sauce.
  4. Spread half of the pasta mixture in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  5. Top with half of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  6. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Bake, uncovered, in a 400°F oven until hot and bubbly.
Sprinkling cheese on top of easy baked rigatoni

How Long to Bake Rigatoni Casserole

Since all of the ingredients in the casserole are already cooked, you just need to bake the dish until it’s hot, bubbly, and slightly crisp on top. This will take about 20 minutes in a 400°F oven. You don’t want to cook it too long, or the pasta will become mushy and overdone.

Square image of a pan of Italian rigatoni bake with a side of bread

What to Serve with Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage

Here are some good side dishes for baked rigatoni with sausage:

Close overhead shot of the best baked rigatoni recipe

Make Ahead

Assemble the dish up to 2 days in advance. Keep it covered in the refrigerator. When ready to bake, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature for at least 30-60 minutes before baking according to the recipe instructions. If the dish is cold when it goes into the oven, you will likely need to add some extra baking time.

To Freeze

Baked rigatoni can be frozen either before or after baking. The quality is best if you assemble the casserole in advance (in a 9 x 13-inch freezer-safe dish) and freeze before baking. Wrapped tightly, the baked rigatoni will last in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook it, defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then proceed with the Make Ahead instructions above.

Storage

Leftover baked rigatoni will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Cover and reheat leftovers in a 350°F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until warmed through. You can also reheat individual portions in a microwave for 1-2 minutes on high power.

Side shot of hands holding a blue casserole dish full of baked rigatoni and cheese with fresh herbs on top

Baked Rigatoni Recipe Variations

  • Don’t have rigatoni pasta on hand? Substitute with ziti or penne pasta.
  • Add baby spinach to the sauce. It will wilt almost instantly and blend into the casserole.
  • Use ground beef or ground turkey instead of the Italian sausage. Since you will be missing the extra flavor boost from the herbs and seasonings in the sausage, you might want to add some extra herbs and seasonings to the sauce.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut the ingredients in half and bake the rigatoni in an 8-inch square dish. Alternatively, you can prepare the full recipe, but divide the ingredients between two 8-inch square dishes. Bake one for now, and freeze the other for later!

Tips for the Best Baked Rigatoni Recipe

  • I like “mezzi rigatoni,” which is slightly shorter than regular rigatoni. It’s easier to eat without cutting!
  • Undercook the pasta slightly, because it will continue to cook while it bakes in the oven. You don’t want to end up with overdone, mushy rigatoni. For instance, if my box of rigatoni suggests 12-14 minutes for al dente, I boil the pasta for no more than 12 minutes.
  • Bake the pasta uncovered. This recipe has plenty of sauce and cheese on top to keep the baked rigatoni from drying out. Be careful that you don’t bake the casserole for too long. Since all of the ingredients are already cooked, the dish will only need about 15 minutes in the oven. It should get hot, bubbly, and slightly crispy on the edges.
  • Fresh herbs really brighten up a warm, cozy casserole. I love to garnish with parsley, basil, oregano or thyme. Some extra grated Parmesan on top is also a great touch!
Overhead shot of a pan of rigatoni pasta bake on a wooden table with fresh herbs and a side of bread

More Pasta Bake Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of two hands holding a pan of easy baked rigatoni with sausage

Baked Rigatoni

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings 6 – 8 people
Calories 585 kcal
This easy Baked Rigatoni with sausage, marinara sauce, and two different types of cheese is a classic pasta bake that's pure comfort food!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (16 ounce) box rigatoni (or mezzi rigatoni)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed (or substitute with ground beef)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 (24 ounce) jars marinara sauce (about 5 cups total)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley or additional fresh basil

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and set the oven rack in the middle position. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook rigatoni according to package instructions for very al dente. (It will continue to cook in the oven, so you want to undercook the pasta just a bit.) Drain; set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and onion; cook until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Stir in both jars of the marinara sauce, basil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss to combine.
  • Spread half of the pasta mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan.
  • Top with remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan.
  • Bake, uncovered, until the casserole is hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Notes

  • Don’t have rigatoni pasta on hand? Substitute with ziti or penne pasta.
  • Add baby spinach to the sauce. It will wilt almost instantly and blend into the casserole.
  • Use ground beef or ground turkey instead of the Italian sausage. Since you will be missing the extra flavor boost from the herbs and seasonings in the sausage, you might want to add some extra herbs and seasonings to the sauce.
  • Cooking for a smaller family? Cut the ingredients in half and bake the rigatoni in an 8-inch square dish. Alternatively, you can prepare the full recipe, but divide the ingredients between two 8-inch square dishes. Bake one for now, and freeze the other for later!
  • I like “mezzi rigatoni,” which is slightly shorter than regular rigatoni. It’s easier to eat without cutting!
  • Undercook the pasta slightly, because it will continue to cook while it bakes in the oven. You don’t want to end up with overdone, mushy rigatoni. For instance, if my box of rigatoni suggests 12-14 minutes for al dente, I boil the pasta for no more than 12 minutes.
  • Bake the pasta uncovered. This recipe has plenty of sauce and cheese on top to keep the baked rigatoni from drying out. Be careful that you don’t bake the casserole for too long. Since all of the ingredients are already cooked, the dish will only need about 15 minutes in the oven. It should get hot, bubbly, and slightly crispy on the edges.
  • Fresh herbs really brighten up a warm, cozy casserole. I love to garnish with parsley, basil, oregano or thyme. Some extra grated Parmesan on top is also a great touch!

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casseroleCalories: 585kcalCarbohydrates: 55gProtein: 28gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 64mgSodium: 1591mgPotassium: 903mgFiber: 5gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 1020IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 328mgIron: 3mg
Keyword: baked rigatoni, baked rigatoni with sausage, Italian rigatoni bake
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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