A cheesy, hearty, and comforting, this Italian Sausage Pasta Bake is a satisfying family dinner.
This recipe was originally published February 15, 2021. It was updated on September 29, 2021.
Add a new healthier comfort food to your menu with this baked pasta casserole recipe. This Italian pasta bake features a super easy homemade tomato sauce and a luscious layer of ricotta cheese -- making it a satisfying homecooked meal that doesn't take a ton of fuss to put together. Read on to learn how to make this recipe, recipe pro-tips, and more.
Table of contents
- This baked pasta recipe is...
- Recipe ingredients:
- Recipe substitutions and adaptations:
- How to make this Italian sausage bake:
- Recipe pro-tips:
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- Serving suggestions:
- Storage directions:
- Tools needed to make this recipe:
- More Italian and pasta recipes:
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We have a complicated relationship with lasagna in this house.
And by "we," I mean Chris. Whereas I grew up loving and looking forward to lasagna dinners, Chris grew up with a rather atagonistic relationship the cheesy baked pasta dish.
Growing up in Colorado in the 80s and 90s, it wasn't uncommon for the lasagna to be made with cottage cheese. And Chris and cottage cheese go together like fireworks at naptime. Not good.
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So, after dating for a few months, Chris' reaction to my excitement at making an upcoming lasagna recipe was understandably not amused.
And, whereas I could step up to the challenge of eating lasagna leftovers for a week, that's a lot of leftovers even for me. So, we agreed to make a pact -- I would make him lasagna with ricotta cheese if he agreed to at least give it a fighting chance.
The result? Raving success. Well, enough success for someone who hadn't eaten lasagna for 30+ years.
And -- most importantly-- music to my lasagna-loving ears. Chris offered to eat lasagna occasionally but only if it was made with ricotta. I willingly agreed.
Given that the offer was conditional and that I get bored making the same thing, you better bet that I set out to find other ways to create the same lasagna experience.
This sausage baked Italian pasta is a byproduct of that brainstorming session. With saucy pasta, creamy ricotta, chunks of hearty sausage, and a robe of melted mozzarella, this pasta dish is reminiscent enough for my lasagna fix without triggering any anti-lasagna sentiments from my favorite loved one. I may have even heard a few "yums" during dinner... Success!
This pasta with sausage recipe is...
Look no further for a new comfort food the whole family will enjoy!
- Pasta - your favorite shaped pasta is perfect for this recipe. Fusilli, penne, orecchiette, cavatappi, and farfalle (bow-ties) are all great options.
- Crushed tomatoes - the better quality tomatoes, the better the casserole will taste. I sometimes use tomatoes with basil but that's optional.
- Italian chicken sausage - the cooked, often prepackaged type is best, though see below for bulk or raw sausage
- Olive oil
- Dried Italian seasoning
- Tomato paste
- Whole milk ricotta cheese
- Large eggs
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- Veggies - play around with the veggies in this recipe, if you please. Sweet peppers, baby spinach, and more onions would all be very tasty.
- Sausage - you can use bulk sausage in place of the precooked sausage. Both bulk Italian Chicken sausage and Italian Pork sausage are great in this recipe. You can do sweet Italian sausage or hot Italian. Either way, just crumble it up until cooked through as you cook it with the eggplant and onions. Then follow the rest of the instructions as listed.
How to make this Italian sausage pasta recipe:
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions in heavily salted water. Drain and set aside.
- Saute the sausage, eggplant, onions, and salt in a Dutch oven until the eggplant is tender and cooked through.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, seasonings, and tomato paste to the sausage and eggplant and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until thickened and a darker red color.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and gently stir in the pasta until coated in sauce.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and salt until smooth.
- Spray a 8 x 13" baking pan with non-stick spray. Layer half of the pasta mixture in the pan and spread out evenly.
- Spoon the ricotta mixture over the pasta and spread out evenly.
- Cover the ricotta mixture with the rest of the pasta and carefully spread out.
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese on the pasta and bake, uncovered, for 20-22 minutes, or until the bake is bubbling and the cheese is turning golden brown around the edges.
- Heavily salt the pasta water. Make the pasta taste like what you'd get in a restaurant by adequately salting the water. The water should taste as salty as the sea, or ¾ tablespoons of salt for every 2 quarts of boiling water.
- Sauté the eggplant with salt. Eggplant needs salt to draw out the moisture and tenderize the veggie. Some recipes call to salt and drain the the eggplant in an additional step, but we will combine the steps -- saving time -- in this recipe. So, add the salt when sautéing the eggplant, sausage, and onion.
- Use whole milk ricotta cheese. Whole milk ricotta offers much better flavor and has a silkier texture than skim milk ricotta. It's also usually easier to find in grocery stores.
Yes, you cook pasta before baking in a pasta bake. This ensures that the pasta is cooked through and isn't tough or chewy.
The pasta will absorb additional sauce as it cooks, causing it to absorb more moisture, but not enough that you can compensate for undercooked pasta. So, though you do not need to undercook pasta for the bake, it doesn't hurt if you cook it al dente (or with just a slight bit of chew).
This recipe is naturally processed sugar free and is high in protein and carbohydrates.
- To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta like Banza (chickpea pasta) or brown rice pasta.
- To make this recipe vegetarian, simply omit the chicken sausage (or substitute in a vegetarian sausage) and follow the recipe directions as listed.
Italian sausage casserole is a filling main dish recipe, so I like to serve it with some light sides:
Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. You can also freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months.
To reheat, heat the leftover pasta bake covered in 2-3 serving size (or smaller) portions on medium heat in the microwave for 1-2 minute intervals until heated through. You may want to rotate the pasta throughout the reheating time but I recommend stirring it too vigorously, as the pasta can get broken up.
Tools needed to make this recipe:
- Cutting board
- Chef knife
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Can opener
- Stockpot and/or Dutch oven
- Mixing bowl
- Heat safe spatula
- 8 x 13" baking dish
More Italian and pasta recipes:
- Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
- Pesto Gnocchi
- No Boil Pasta Bake with Turkey
- Sheet Pan Sausage & Veggies
- Instant Pot Risotto
- Creamy Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Peas
- Sundried Tomato Red Pesto
- Instant Pot Beef Ragu
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A cheesy and hearty pasta bake, this Cheesy Baked Italian Sausage Pasta is a satisfying dinner. It's easy enough to make for a weeknight meal but tasty and impressive enough to serve for company or a dinner party.
- 8 oz. pasta shapes; bow ties, penne, rotini, cavatappi, etc.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ large yellow or white onion, diced
- 1 lb pre-cooked Italian Chicken sausage, sliced into ¼" coins
- 1 medium eggplant, diced into ½" cubes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 28 oz. crushed tomatoes (with basil optional)
- ¾ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ¼ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Boil the pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta boils: preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and spray an 8 x 13" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat until it sputters when flicked with water.
- Add the onion, chicken sausage, eggplant, and salt to the hot oil in the stockpot and saute for 9-11 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and cooked through.
- Pour the crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, and tomato paste in with the sausage and eggplant. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the sauce is thickened up and a darker red color. Remove the sauce from the heat and gently fold in the cooked pasta until covered in the sauce.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and salt until smooth.
- Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread out evenly. Pour the ricotta mixture over the pasta and gently spread out evenly over the pasta. Spoon the rest of the pasta over the ricotta and gently spread out.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and bake the casserole uncovered for 20-22 minutes or until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown around the edges.
- Let the casserole rest uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Serve hot!
1. Leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. They also can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for 2 months.
2. To make this recipe gluten-free, just use gluten-free noodles like brown rice or chickpea pasta.
3. To make this recipe vegetarian, simply omit the chicken sausage from the recipe or use a vegetarian sausage substitute.
Serving Size1/10 casserole
Amount Per Serving Calories 384Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 108mgSodium 919mgCarbohydrates 32gFiber 4gSugar 7gProtein 26g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dietitians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.