This Baked Rigatoni recipe is easy, classy comfort food, boasting rigatoni and sausage in a scrumptious creamy pink sauce – perfect for a make ahead dinner or freezer meal!
This Baked Rigatoni recipe is richly satisfying, hearty yet elegant and destined to become a family favorite! Al dente rigatoni is swaddled in tomato cream sauce (pink sauce) infused with garlic, onions and basil, studded with sweet bell peppers and juicy Italian sausage, blanketed with buttery mozzarella and nutty Parmesan then baked to melty perfection. This Baked Rigatoni is easily customizable (use turkey sausage, etc., swap veggies), make ahead and freezer friendly. Serve Rigatoni al Forno with Caesar Salad and Garlic Bread or Breadsticks for a cozy dinner everyone will love.
There are a few baked Italian pasta dishes that everyone needs a superb recipe for, namely: Lasagna, White Chicken Lasagna, Baked Ziti, Baked Penne, Manicotti, Stuffed Shells, Tortellini Al Forno and Baked Macaroni and Cheese, and of course this Baked Rigatoni recipe!
How to Make Baked Rigatoni Video
WHY YOU’LL LOVE Baked Rigatoni Recipe
Divine. The oversized tubes of al-dente rigatoni deliver the ideal texture; the pink sauce is saucy, dreamy, creamy, garlicky, with a subtle sweetness from the bell peppers and heat from the sausage, and the cheesy crescendo of mozzarella will have everyone combing back for seconds.
Customizable. You can make this recipe as lean or as indulgent as you wish! Swap the Italian sausage for chicken sausage or turkey sausage, the heavy cream for evaporated milk or half and half and the veggies for whatever you have on hand.
Make ahead friendly. You’ll love that this recipe tastes even better when prepped ahead! Simply assemble, refrigerate, then bake when ready!
Freezer friendly. This recipe freezes well for no hassle busy nights, gifts for new moms or when someone has had surgery. You can also double the batch and eat one casserole for dinner and freeze the other for later – double the yum without double the work!
rigatoni Bake Ingredients
This Baked Rigatoni recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients so you can whip it up any night of the week! Just keep some sausage in the freezer and you’re golden. Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):
Can I make this recipe gluten free?
This Baked Rigatoni with Sausage can be made gluten free by using your favorite gluten free pasta! The rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
Baked Rigatoni FAQS
Rigatoni are hollow tubes of pasta that have ridges running down its length. Rigatoni was named after the characteristic ridges – the word rigatoni comes from the Italian word rigato which means “ridged” or “lined.”
Rigatoni noodles are wider than both penne and ziti and are cut straight across, and not on the diagonal like penne. Both rigatoni and penne have ridges, whereas ziti is smooth.
The size and thickness of rigatoni noodles varies in Italy and it varies by manufacturer. According to CooksInfo, the size of Rigatoni made by De Cecco is 1.771 inches long, between 0.043″ and 0.046″ thick, with a diameter of 0.629.″
Rigatoni pasta is traditionally made from durum wheat semolina. You may also find gluten free rigatoni made of rice, corn, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa.
1 pound of dry pasta will typically feed 4 people, with multiple servings. This rigatoni pasta bake, however, is glammed up with sausage and veggies, which makes it more filling so I would say it comfortably feeds six people.
Rigatoni is a favorite pasta of mine because its hearty shape and durable structure are ideal for chunky sauces, whether with meat, vegetables – or both – just like this one! The ridges cradle the sauces and allow them to adhere to the pasta instead of just sliding off. Its larger hollow diameter also allows the sauce to get inside the pasta without collapsing like other pasta shapes. Rigatoni noodles also work well for baked pastas because they fill with sauce, hold onto cheese well and don’t collapse. So, in short, we get to enjoy our delectable sauce infused in every nook and cranny of rigatoni AKA so much flavor in every bite!
Rigatoni noodles will vary in cooking time depending on manufacturer, size, ingredients and actual cooking conditions such as temperature, volume of water etc. but typically 10-13 minutes is appropriate. The package will give you exact cooking times for your rigatoni but I recommend testing it 2-3 minutes before. Like all pastas, rigatoni should not be overcooked but it is particularly important rigatoni remain al dente so the tube can retain its structure, otherwise a limp tube of pasta will collapse and not hold any sauce.
The only way to know when rigatoni is done is to taste it! I remove a tube with a slotted spoon, rinse it in cool water and then taste. Don’t be tempted to bite into pasta straight from the boiling pot-you will burn your tongue! Rigatoni noodles should be cooked al dente, meaning it is slightly firm. Keep in mind the rigatoni will continue to cook slightly in the oven.
The main difference is the pasta: Both rigatoni and ziti are hollow tubes, but rigatoni is larger with ridges, whereas ziti is thinner and smooth. This baked rigatoni recipe is made with Italian sausage, bell peppers in a pink sauce covered in mozzarella, whereas my baked ziti recipe is made with Bolognese and covered in pools of ricotta and mozzarella. Both recipe are scrumptious – just different!
HOW TO MAKE Baked Rigatoni Recipe
This Baked Rigatoni with Sausage is simple to prepare and is excellent for planned leftovers! Full instructions are provided in the recipe card at the end of this post, but here’s an overview of the recipe:
WHAT to serve with Rigatoni Bake
This hearty, comforting Rigatoni Bake loves a fresh side of veggies or salad, fruit and bread to mop up the scrumptious sauce! Here are a few ideas:
Recipe MEal Prep
This Sausage Baked Rigatoni recipe is the perfect make-ahead meal to either refrigerate and bake the next day or to assemble and freeze.
Option 1: Assemble and refrigerate. Assemble the entire Rigatoni Bake a day in advance, tightly cover, and refrigerate (without baking). I actually think the casserole tastes better this way because the flavors have more time to develop and meld. When ready to enjoy, let the casserole sit on the counter for 20 minutes before baking, and add an additional 10 minutes or so to the baking time.
Option 2: Make sauce in advance. The Italian sausage sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated or freeze it for up to 3 months (it tastes 10X better made ahead!).
HOW Long is this recipe Good for?
Leftovers of Baked Rigatoni recipe should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or covered tightly with foil. When stored correctly, it will last up to 5 days then should be frozen after that (freezer instructions to follow).
How do I reheat Rigatoni al forno?
Microwave: Microwave individual portions for 90 seconds, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals until warmed through. I recommend covering with a paper towel to protect against any splatters.
Oven: Cover with foil and bake at 325ºF for 20-25 minutes or until warmed through.
can i freeze baked rigatoni?
Yes! You can freeze the Rigatoni Casserole baked or unbaked. Freezing is a great way to enjoy a bake-and-eat dinner any night of the week without any prep! For best results, I recommend freezing unbaked rigatoni — freezing baked rigatoni should be reserved for leftovers.
1. Assemble the pasta bake according to recipe directions in a freezer-safe dish, but do not bake.
2. Wrap the dish tightly all around with 2 layers of plastic wrap, followed by foil. Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
3. Bake from frozen by removing the plastic wrap and re-covering with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-30 more minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the dish is warmed through.
Looking for Italain Pasta Bake Recipes?
Tortellini Al Forno
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese Casserole
Million Dollar Baked Penne
White Chicken Lasagna
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PASTA AND CHEESE
- 1 lb. rigatoni (I recommend Barilla brand)
- 1 1/4 cups freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- fresh parsley (optional for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed (see notes for substitutions)
- 1 small onion, chopped (may sub 1 ½ tsp onion powder)
- 2 orange or yellow bell peppers, chopped (I use one of each)
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- pinch -¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (optional for MORE heat)
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree (no salt/seasonings added)
- 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon (base, crushed cubes or granulated)
- 1 teaspoon sugar, more or less to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 TBS EACH dried basil, dried parsley (may sub 3 TBS fresh)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cook rigatoni in salted water according to package directions until 1 minute shy of al dente – don’t overcook because it will continue to cook in the oven. Strain and rinse with cold water.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions and cook for 3 minutes. Add sausage and cook until almost cooked through. Add the bell peppers, garlic and optional red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the onions are softened. Discard excess grease (if there is any).
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, bouillon, sugar, bay leaf and all seasonings.
- Cover, leaving about a 1-inch gap, and gently simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaf.
- Stir in the heavy cream, followed by the rigatoni. Stir until pasta is completely coated. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste.
- Add to a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish. Top with Parmesan and mozzarella.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove the foil and bake a few more minutes for toasted cheese if desired. Garnish with fresh parsley (optional).
- To swap protein: I recommend hot Italian sausage because it is mega juicy and flavorful but you can certainly swap the pork for hot Italian chicken or turkey sausage. You can also use plain lean ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, sliced sausage etc. If you go plain, but be aware you will be losing the Italian seasonings and spice, so I recommend additional Italian seasonings, a pinch of red pepper flakes and ground fennel (about ¼ teaspoon fennel).
- Meal Prep: Assemble the entire casserole up to two days in advance, tightly cover, and refrigerate (without baking). When ready to enjoy, let the casserole sit on the counter for 20 minutes before baking; add an additional 10 minutes or so to the baking time.
- Freezer instructions: Assemble the pasta bake according to recipe directions in a freezer-safe dish, but do not bake. Wrap the dish tightly all around with 2 layers of plastic wrap, followed by foil. Label and freeze for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen by removing the plastic wrap and re-covering with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-30 more minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and the dish is warmed through.
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