This Cheesy Rigatoni al Forno is baked in a simple, delicious sauce and three cheeses! The flavors are very similar to lasagna, but it’s SO much quicker and easier to make and it all comes together in one pan. It’s a great make-ahead meal and the leftovers are divine!
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Pasta baked in the oven (AKA “al forno”) is what comfort food dreams are made of!! My husband used to be against baked pastas because he felt they were always too dry and the pasta was mushy.
This recipe was designed to combat both of those #firstworldproblems. This baked rigatoni is saucy, perfectly cooked and an absolute family favorite!!! This dish is part baked rigatoni, part lasagna… and 100% delicious!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Cheesy, comfort food goodness!
- Great make ahead or freezer meal.
- Delicious, easy sauce and the pasta is never dry.
- Great for serving a crowd or a big family.
- Leftovers are insanely good!
You’ll need the following ingredients to make this delicious Rigatoni al Forno with Sausage and Ricotta:
Whole Peeled Tomatoes: San Marzano tomatoes cannot be beat! They just have such a deeper flavor than regular whole peeled tomatoes. If you can’t find San Marzano, you can substitute regular whole peeled tomatoes, though 🙂
Italian Sausage: Sweet Italian sausage is my go-to for this recipe.
Ricotta Cheese: Use whole milk ricotta to make it super creamy!
Mozzarella Cheese: I love the taste of fresh mozzarella, but regular grated mozzarella works just fine, too!
HOW TO MAKE THIS RECIPE: STEP BY STEP
Here are some quick visual instructions. Remember that full instructions with exact ingredients will be in the recipe card below!
Step 1: In a small bowl, mix ricotta cheese with dried oregano or Italian seasoning. Set aside. Then, boil up your rigatoni 2 minutes less than package directions.
Step 2: In a large, oven proof skillet, brown sausage. Then, add tomatoes, garlic and spices.
Step 3: Gently fold in pasta
Step 4: Top with dollops of ricotta mixture, mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Step 5: Bake 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Broil the last 2-3 minutes if you like!
RECIPE TIPS & TRICKS
- If you are going to use grated cheese, grating your own cheese really yields that best, meltiest cheese! If you have the time, opt for grating your own vs. bagged cheese.
- In the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, turn the oven on BROIL to get the mozzarella nice and “brown.” Just be sure to watch it closely!
STORAGE & REHEATING
Leftovers: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also just cover the pan tightly with a layer or two of foil and store.
Freezing: This dish makes a great freezer meal! Assemble everything, and freeze it UNBAKED. I like transferring the pasta to aluminum pans like these. Put the lid on, then cover with another layer of foil to prevent freezer burn. If you are using a regular (non disposable) pan, just cover tightly with several layers of foil. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Cook the pasta directly from frozen, adding about 15-30 minutes extra cooking time.
Make Ahead: You can assemble this dish a day ahead and bake it when you’re ready to eat. Be sure to cover it tightly with foil to store it in the fridge. Since the dish has been refrigerated, it will need a little more baking time, so keep that in mind.
ADDITIONS & SUBSTITUTIONS
Pasta: Most any non “noodle” type pasta will work in this dish. I prefer bigger, heartier pastas that will hold up better in the oven (no mushy pasta for me!). Penne and Ziti are also great options. Just be sure to cook the pasta two minutes less than the package directions.
Meat: This recipe will work with any ground meat! Ground beef, ground turkey and….have you tied Ground Bison?! Its super yummy in this dish! Check out my other Ground Bison Pasta recipe!
Cheese: I love the taste of fresh mozzarella like I used in this recipe, but grated mozzarella is perfect, too! Grating your own cheese will give you the maximum yummy meltiness! 🙂 I also LOVE LOVE the ricotta in this recipe for the creaminess and texture it adds, but if you don’t have any, no worries! You can leave it out.
Vegetarian Rigatoni al Forno: This pasta al forno can easily be made vegetarian! Instead of browning up sausage, cook up some diced veggies instead and use that as your “meat” layer! Onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and zucchini are delicious. About 3-4 cups of chopped veggies is a perfect.
Sauce: Although I LOVE the taste and texture of the San Marzano tomatoes, you can use any whole, peeled tomatoes in a can. OR replace the crushed tomatoes and whole tomatoes with a 24 oz. jar or your favorite marinara sauce (we love Rao’s!).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
“Al Forno” is just the Italian translation meaning from or at the oven. So basically, it means something that’s baked-usually referring to pizza, pasta and bread. Pasta al Forno is also referred to as baked pasta or a pasta bake.
Not a thing! You did it right! LOL! Ricotta cheese is processed in a way that makes it an un-melty cheese like paneer or halloumi. It’s perfect for an oven baked dish because although it doesn’t MELT, it gets soft and warm in the oven and adds the perfect creaminess to this dish!
Another option is to stir the ricotta right into the sauce if you want the sauce itself to be more creamy.
Yes!! You can assemble this dish a day ahead and bake it when you’re ready to eat. Be sure to cover it tightly with foil to store it in the fridge. Since the dish has been refrigerated, it will need a little more baking time, so keep that in mind.
OTHER PASTA RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE
- SLOW COOKER TACO PASTA
- CHICKEN PASTA WITH CHIPOTLE CREAM SAUCE
- PUMPKIN RISOTTO WITH MUSHROOMS AND BACON
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Cheesy Rigatoni al Forno with Sausage and Ricotta
- 12 oz. Rigatoni pasta penne and ziti also work well
- 6 oz whole milk ricotta about 3/4 of a cup
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning or dried oregano
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 28 oz. can whole, peeled tomatoes San Marzano are recommended!
- 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced the best garlic chopper!
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into small chunks See Note 1
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (to taste)
- In a small bowl, stir together ricotta and Italian seasoning or dried oregano. Set aside.
- Boil pasta 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- While pasta is boiling, add 1 tsp of olive oil to a large oven-proof skillet or cast iron pan over medium high heat. Add sausage and brown for 3-4 minutes, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Drain grease, if needed. Pro tip: using a potato masher about halfway through cooking works great to get the meat nice and fine!
- Add crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes and garlic. Use a spoon (or your hands!) to break up the whole tomatoes so there are no large chunks. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to marry. Taste, and season with salt if necessary (See Note 2).
- Carefully stir in pasta, making sure it is well coated with the sauce. Spread pasta in an even layer over the pan. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Then dollop on ricotta mixture. Sprinkle on mozzarella cheese. If using fresh mozzarella, nestle the pieces into the pasta.
- Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Broil for the last 2-3 minutes for nicely "browned" cheese, if you like! Allow dish to rest for 5 minutes before serving.