This Cheesy Rigatoni al Forno recipe 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!
This post may contain affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission when you click on the links and make a purchase. I will never recommend a product that I don’t support 100%. You can read my full disclosure here.
Pasta baked in the oven (AKA “al forno”) is an Italian comfort food staple! My husband used to be against baked pastas because he felt they were always too dry and the pasta was mushy.
This delicious rigatoni al forno recipe was designed to combat both of those #firstworldproblems. This baked pasta dish is saucy, perfectly cooked, and an absolute family favorite!!! This dish is part-baked rigatoni, part lasagna… and 100% delicious!
If you want to try out more incredible pasta comfort food dishes, try my Easy Slow Cooker Bison Bolognese (you can use any meat you like!), this quick, creamy Asiago Tortellini, this amazing Creamy Garlic Parmesan Pasta, or my super easy Chicken Broccoli Lasagna!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE
- Cheesy, comfort food goodness!
- A great make-ahead or freezer meal.
- Baked in lots of delicious sauce so 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 beaten! 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.
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 RIGATONI AL FORNO: 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 the 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. using 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!
⭐️ CONFIDENCE TIP ⭐️
The delicious meat sauce is AMAZING over pasta. If you are short on time, you can skip baking the pasta and just enjoy the rigatoni with the amazing sauce!
STORAGE & REHEATING
Storage: Store leftover pasta 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 aluminum foil and store in the fridge.
Reheating: Reheat individual servings of this baked pasta in the microwave, covered loosely with a paper towel to prevent splatters.
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 at least 20-30 minutes extra cooking time.
Make-Ahead Directions: 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!). You can make penne al forno or ziti al forno–both are 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, ground pork, and….have you tied Ground Bison?! It’s 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 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 of 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 DISHES YOU’LL LOVE
Cheesy Rigatoni al Forno with Sausage and Ricotta
- 12 oz. rigatoni pasta penne and ziti also work well
- 6 oz whole milk ricotta cheese 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 cheese, cut or torn into small chunks See Note 1
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese Parmigiono Reggiano or pecorino romano are also great!
- 1/2 tsp sea salt (to taste)
- red pepper flakes and fresh basil (optional, to taste)
- In a small bowl, stir together ricotta and Italian seasoning or dried oregano. Set aside.
- In a large pot of water, boil pasta to al dente — about 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain and set cooked pasta 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. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into small pieces 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 simmer sauce over low heat 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. Make sure pasta is spread in a nice, single layer over the pan and that most of the pasta is covered with sauce. Note: If you don't have an oven-proof pan, you can transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish at this point.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. Optional: Broil for the last 2-3 minutes for nice, golden brown cheese! Allow dish to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil and crushed red pepper flakes, if you like!