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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.
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.
- You’ll want to cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Since it will continue cooking in the oven, be sure to cut the cooking time short and leave the rigatoni with a pretty good al dente “bite”.
- While the pasta boils, cook the ground pork with the seasonings and onion until it gets crumbly and browned. Transfer that mixture to a paper towel lined plate so that any excess grease can drain off.
- Next step is to mix the sausage, pasta, sauce, ricotta, and more seasonings together in a big bowl. This gets transferred to a casserole dish and everything gets topped with more sauce and some mozzarella.
- The casserole is then baked until everything is super hot and the cheese is fully melted.
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.
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 meat and seasonings 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.