Cheesy Baked Rigatoni Pasta with ricotta, mozzarella, and Italian sausage is the kind of dinner your family will crave.
You can even prepare this dinner casserole ahead of time and then heat it in the oven when you’re ready to eat. Pair it with a nice green salad and you will have a hearty meal.
Baked rigatoni pasta is one of those feel good meals. It’s pure comfort food. I love it because it reminds me of my childhood. My husband loves it because what man doesn’t love stuffing his stomach with spicy Italian sausage, cheese, and pasta? The kids love it because it simply tastes good.
I live in a pasta loving household. From pasta dishes packed with veggies to homemade ravioli, my family never turns down dinner if it’s main ingredient is pasta. What can I say? We love our carbs. Baked rigatoni with ricotta and an Italian sausage meat sauce happens to be one of our favorites.
What is the difference between rigatoni, ziti, and penne pasta?
You’ve probably seen all sorts of delicious recipes that call for one of those three different kinds of pasta. If you’re like me, you’ve wondered what is the difference? Also, can one be substituted for the other? I use all three interchangeably, however some people might argue you can’t.
Rigatoni, ziti, and penne are all tubular pastas. Rigatoni is a large and slightly curved tube, approximately 1 ½ inches in length and ½ inch in diameter. They are larger than penne and ziti. The literal meaning of rigatoni is large lined ones. Penne are medium length tubes with ridges, cut diagonally at both edges, that resemble a quill pen. Ziti are narrow hose-like tubes sized smaller than rigatoni, slightly less than ¼ inch in diameter.
Kitchen tools used to make this baked rigatoni pasta with ricotta and meat sauce:
Cutting Board: These are my go-to cutting boards. They are super easy to clean, never hold a smell (onion transferred to apple is gross), and because they are so thin, they are really easy to store.
Knives: There is nothing more frustrating than having to use a poor quality knife. I’ve been using this set for years. I found it to be affordable yet incredibly durable and versatile. Whether you’re filleting a salmon or slicing a super ripe tomato, these are great knives for the everyday chef.
Garlic Press – Having a good garlic press can make all the difference. I use this one because it’s not only easy to squeeze, but it’s easy to clean. Both are equally important, in my opinion.
Flexible Measuring Cups – My sister and I first found these at a cooking class and we thought they were just the best invention. Any time you are measuring and/or pouring liquid, these are simply the best to have on hand. They make a great gift for your favorite cook, too!
Casserole Dish: This one is on my wishlist!
3 quart sauce pan – I bought an entire All-clad set recently and this is my favorite sized pan. I use it for everything from steaming veggies to cooking pasta and soups.
Cheesy Baked Rigatoni Pasta
- 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 small red onion diced
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese whole milk recommended
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 1/2 cups pasta sauce
- 8 ounces fresh whole milk mozzarella sliced or grated
- In a large pot of salted water, cook the rigatoni al dente. You still want it to have a bit of a bite to it since it will continue cooking in the oven. If the package recommends 13 minutes boil time, only cook it about 9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, cook the Italian sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat. Combine ground pork, paprika, salt, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic and onion. Stir frequently while cooking and cook until sausage is browned and crumbly, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer sausage to a paper towel lined plate. Discard grease.
- In a large sized bowl, combine ricotta, egg, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Add 3 cups pasta sauce, reserving remaining 1 1/2 cups. Add cooked sausage and al dente pasta to bowl. Stir to combine. Transfer to a casserole dish.
- Cover pasta mixture with remaining pasta sauce and top with mozzarella. Cover with oven safe lid or aluminum foil.
- At this point you can either refrigerate until ready to bake or you can immediately transfer to oven.
- Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 minutes covered (longer bake time required if previously refrigerated). Remove cover and bake additional 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.