Baked Rigatoni

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There are not many things I love more than a one-pot pasta dish! This Baked Rigatoni Pasta is the perfect comforting cold weather meal with ricotta, pesto and an easy creamy red sauce.

A white skillet with baked Rigatoni with ground chicken sausage, pesto and ricotta garnished with basil leaves, with a serving spoon, and placed on a wooden board and a kitchen towel with more basil leaves on the work surface.


 

Why I Love This Recipe

In case you're not living on the west coast, it's been FREEZING and you know that we're big fat wimps over here. That means I've been really leaning into the comforting meals like the Italian meatballs and this Baked Rigatoni. It's a one-pot dish that's loaded with flavor from the red sauce, the pesto and the ricotta. It's a medley of flavors and it puts all other Baked Rigatoni recipes to shame!

What is Baked Rigatoni?

Baked rigatoni is a classic Italian-American dish that's will wow everyone around your table. This pasta combines al dente rigatoni with everyone's favorite tomato sauce and whatever other ingredients your heart desires, I'm into ground meat, vegetables, cheese (TONS OBVI!)—all baked together in one delicious medley of flavors. So don't just settle for boring old spaghetti next time you want a red sauce pasta - get the whole gang over for an ooey-gooey night of Baked Rigatoni!

Ingredients & Substitutions

Mise-en-place with all the ingredients required to make baked rigatoni with ground chicken sausage, pesto and ricotta.
  • Rigatoni – Obviously this is the base of the dish. You're welcome to use any other short pasta you have on hand.
  • Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage – This is going to add tons of flavor to the red sauce. You're also welcome to use ground chicken, ground turkey or ground beef! I prefer sausage as the extra fat gives even more flavor to this dish. But any kind of ground meat is great.
  • Garlic and Onions – Pretty much mandatory for all WGC recipes!
  • Herbs and Seasonings – Dried oregano, dried thyme and red pepper flakes add a depth of flavor to the rigatoni.
  • Crushed Tomatoes – You can also use a jarred pasta sauce instead of crushed tomatoes if that's what you have on hand.
  • Heavy Cream – Crushed tomatoes and heavy cream make up the majority of the sauce and it's perfection.
  • Cheese – We need some shredded mozzarella (skip the fresh mozzarella for this as it doesn't melt as well) and some ricotta. While burrata would be incredible, it gets a little too melty and becomes almost like liquid.
  • Fresh Pesto – Adds some more herby notes! I make my own pesto from scratch!
  • Basil – To garnish.

How to Make Baked Rigatoni

A skillet with sausage, onion, and herbs being cooked.

Step 1: Remove the casings from the sausage. In a large skillet, combine the sausage, onion, and herbs over medium heat until browned, for about 10 minutes until the meat is golden brown.

A skillet with sauteed sausage and onions, topped with heavy cream and crushed tomatoes.

Step 2: Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds before adding the crushed tomatoes and heavy cream and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

A skillet with red sauce with sausage being cooked and boiled rigatoni pasta just added to the skillet.

Step 3: Combine cooked pasta and sausage mixture, and the shredded mozzarella and stir to combine.

A white rectangular baking dish with rigatoni mixed in red sauce in the bottom, topped with mozzarella, ricotta and pesto.

Step 4: Place the pasta mixture in a large casserole dish. Top with the fresh mozzarella, ricotta and pesto.

A white rectangular baking dish with baked rigatoni with pesto and ricotta, garnished with basil leaves.

Step 5: Bake for 15 minutes covered with tin foil and then an additional 15 minutes uncovered until bubbly. Garnish with basil and serve.

How to Store Baked Rigatoni

Store the leftovers in the baking dish tightly wrapped or transfer to an airtight container. When its time to eat, pop it back in the oven till its warmed through. You can alternatively microwave it as well.

How to Freeze Baked Rigatoni

This dish can be frozen baked or unbaked. You can assemble everything and freeze it for 3 months. When you're ready to bake, leave it out for 20-30 minutes and make sure your baking dish can go into the oven cold. You might have to increase baking time when baking from frozen. You can also freeze leftovers, after they've been baked. Put them back in the oven till warmed through.

Tips & Tricks

A few things that you can do to really amp up the flavor here!

  1. You want to let the sausage get golden brown. Those brown bits on the bottom of your pan - they are GOLD. Let the meat cook and sear, don't stir to too much and really develop that flavor.
  2. Same goes for the onions. You want them to get nice and golden. If you just sweat them until they are translucent, you're loosing some of the flavor!
  3. How long should you bake the rigatoni for? I usually cook it between 10-12 min but always use the packaging directions as my starting point.
  4. This recipe calls for rigatoni, but feel free to substitute it for any other type of short pasta.

FAQs

Is rigatoni the same as ziti?

Rigatoni and ziti are similar but not the same. They're actually two different types of pasta! Rigatoni is a tube-shaped, ridged pasta and Ziti, on the other hand, is smoother and flatter than rigatoni.

What is the difference between penne and rigatoni?

While both are tubes, but penne tends to have angled ends while rigatoni are straight with wider openings which I love for a dish like this when you want the meat mixture to go inside the pasta.

Can you make baked rigatoni ahead of time?

You can easily make it ahead and store it overnight in the fridge, ready to pop into the oven anytime you like! Just assemble all the ingredients together, layer them in a baking dish and refrigerate until ready to be baked.

A closeup shot of baked rigatoni with ground chicken sausage, pesto and ricotta garnished with basil leaves.

Similar Recips

If you tried this recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it goes in the 📝 comments below. Thanks for visiting today!

Rigatoni with Pesto and Ricotta from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

Baked Rigatoni

Author: Gaby Dalkin
4.6 from 19 votes
This Baked Rigatoni is truly one of my favorite weeknight meals when I'm needing something flavorful, fast and comforting! 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course, Dinner
Cuisine Italian
Servings 10 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound medium rigatoni
  • 1 pound sweet Italian chicken sausage
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 ½ cups crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • ½ cup fresh pesto
  • Basil to garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Cook the rigatoni according to package directions. Drain the pasta, and set it aside.
  • Remove the casings from the sausage. In a large skillet, combine the sausage, onion, and herbs over medium heat until browned, for about 10 minutes until the meat is golden brown. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds before adding the crushed tomatoes and heavy cream and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Combine cooked pasta and sausage mixture, and the shredded mozzarella and stir to combine. Place the pasta mixture in a large casserole dish. Top with the fresh mozzarella, ricotta and pesto and bake for 15 minutes covered with tin foil and then an additional 15 minutes uncovered until bubbly. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • This recipe calls for rigatoni, but feel free to substitute it for any other type of short pasta
  • You want to let the sausage get golden brown. Those brown bits on the bottom of your pan - they are GOLD. Let the meat cook and sear, don't stir to too much and really develop that flavor.
  • Same goes for the onions. You want them to get nice and golden. If you just sweat them until they are translucent, you're loosing some of the flavor!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 551kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 705mg | Potassium: 476mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 862IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 241mg | Iron: 2mg
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7 Comments

  1. I made this tonight but with ground beef and it was delicious ! great, easy staple meal to make! thanks again Gaby for another hit!

  2. 5 stars
    Loved this one! Felt much more lighter and flavorful than a dense baked ziti - will definitely make again (and thankful we split the recipe and have half in the freezer!!)

  3. Could this recipe be frozen once it’s assembled? I want to make it for a friend who has a baby in the NICU but I want her to have the option to eat it when she can.

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