Hearty rigatoni noodles in a flavorful tomato sauce loaded with sausage and topped with mozzarella and parmesan then baked to golden brown perfection. This easy dinner is sure to be a weeknight staple.
Pasta is always a good choice for easy weeknight meals. This baked rigatoni with sausage recipe is made with a quick simmering meat sauce tossed with al dente rigatoni noodles and topped with freshly shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Bake it for 30 minutes until golden brown and you’ll have a dinner everyone will love!
Serve your pasta dinner with a simple side salad and this Crusty Dutch Oven Bread to round out the meal.
Key Ingredient Notes
Rigatoni Noodles – these hearty noodles are perfect for baking in meat sauce. They hold up when baked and are well-balanced with the hearty sausage tomato sauce.
Pork Sausage – adds a ton of flavor to the sauce. Choose any kind of sausage you like.
Crushed Tomatoes – the bulk of the tomato sauce. Crushed tomatoes are great for making sauce because they still have some texture and body.
Italian Seasoning – seasoning blend typically made up of oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, marjoram, and other herbs and spices.
Brown Sugar – balances out the acidity of the canned tomatoes.
Mozzarella – adds melty cheesiness to the pasta. I suggest shredding your own for the best outcome.
Parmesan – adds more flavor to the cheese topping. Just like the mozzarella, I suggest grating your own.
Parsley – chopped and sprinkled on top after baking, parsley adds a bit of freshness.
Step By Step Instructions
Note: Full list of ingredients, their amounts, and instructions can be found in the recipe card below.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente noodles. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Note: If you use an oven-safe skillet, you can bake the pasta in the same pan. Otherwise, set aside a 9×13 baking dish.
Add the sausage and sauté, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Remove to a plate leaving behind any drippings. Set aside.
Add the diced onion to the skillet with the sausage drippings and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Mix in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for another minute.
Pour in the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, salt, and pepper, and mix until well combined.
Add the cooked sausage to the sauce and mix to combine.
Mix the boiled rigatoni noodles and half of the reserved pasta water into the sauce until all of the pasta is coated in the sauce. Add more pasta water if needed to create a velvety but not runny sauce.
Transfer to the 9×13 baking dish, if necessary.
Top the pasta with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown and the sauce around the edges is bubbling.
Allow the pasta to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Top with chopped fresh parsley. Serve warm and enjoy!
Tips & Tricks
- Make the sauce in a large oven-safe dish like a casserole or braiser to avoid having to transfer the pasta to another dish before baking.
- I always suggest shredding and grating your own cheese. For just a little extra work, you’ll have a cheese that is meltier and better tasting than pre-shredded ones.
Substitutions & Variations
- Use turkey or chicken sausage instead of pork sausage. You can also use vegetarian sausage to make this a meat-free dish.
- Change up the parmesan cheese. Pecorino-Romano and Asiago are great options.
- Penne, ziti, paccheri, or other tube-shaped noodles can be used instead of the rigatoni noodles.
Storage & Reheating
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Heat on a microwave-safe plate in 30-second bursts until warmed through.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the pasta in an oven-safe dish. Heat for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
Toss the noodles and sauce together then transfer them to a freezer-safe container. Top with the mozzarella and parmesan. Cover tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Fully thaw in the fridge before baking according to the instructions above.
Place the cooled pasta in a freezer-safe container and tightly cover it with a lid or foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
Frequently Asked Questions
It helps to loosen the simmered sauce without making it too runny. Because there is starch in the water, it will thicken the sauce as the pasta bakes.
If you forgot to save some of the pasta water, add between 1/4 and 1/2 a cup of plain water instead. You’ll want to use a bit less water since it won’t thicken the sauce like the pasta water would.
Canned tomatoes tend to have a stronger acidic flavor and benefit from a little bit of added sugar to balance out the flavors. If you prefer a sauce with no added sugar, you can leave out the brown sugar.
Mushy pasta likely happened because it was overcooked when boiling. You want to drain the pasta when it still has a bit of firmness to it since it will continue to cook and soften in the oven.
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Baked Rigatoni with Sausage
- 1 pound rigatoni noodles
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground pork sausage not in casings
- 1/2 cup yellow onion small dice
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper preferably freshly cracked
- 2 cups mozzarella freshly shredded
- 1/4 cup parmesan freshly grated
- fresh parsley chopped for topping
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. If you're not using an oven-safe skillet, set aside a 9×13 baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Cook the pasta to al dente according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, preferably oven-safe skillet or casserole, over medium heat.
- Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 8 to 10 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Remove to a plate leaving behind drippings.
- Add the diced onion to the pan with the sausage dripping and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato paste to the pan with the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute.
- Pour in the crushed tomatoes, brown sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and mix to combine. Mix in the cooked sausage.
- Add the drained pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss until all of the pasta is coated in sauce. Add more pasta water if necessary to create a velvety but not runny sauce.
- If necessary, transfer the pasta to a 9×13 baking dish.
- Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown and the sauce around the edges is bubbling.
- Allow the pasta to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve warm.
- If you forgot to reserve the pasta water, use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of plain water.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Reheat in 30-second bursts in the microwave or in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.