Italian Sausage Pasta Bake – Cooking For My Soul

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This Italian Sausage Pasta Bake is true comfort food! It’s a super easy pasta bake made with flavorful Italian sausage, your favorite marinara sauce, herbs, lots of cheese, and penne pasta.

It goes into the oven until it’s perfectly cheesy and beautifully golden brown. I also love the addition of ricotta in the center – it adds great flavor and texture contrast.

This sausage pasta bake is make-ahead and freezer-friendly too, so go ahead and make a big batch, and you’ll have dinner ready whenever it’s most convenient for you. It’s amazing!

scooping Italian sausage and penne from baking panscooping Italian sausage and penne from baking pan

A true comfort food recipe right here: a cheesy and delicious Italian sausage pasta bake!

I love any sort of cheesy pasta dishes, such as Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Shells or Skillet Lasagna. So, making this sausage pasta bake was really a no-brainer!

It is perfect for dinner, especially when it’s cold outside. There’s nothing that a good sausage pasta bake, plus a cheesy garlic bread and a simple arugula salad, can’t do to warm up your soul.

I make it with flavorful Italian sausage, my favorite store-bought marinara (gotta keep it simple and easy!), lots of herbs, and penne pasta cooked until al dente. It all goes into a large 9×13 inch baking dish and is topped with three cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan.

I really like this Italian Sausage Pasta Bake because:

  • It’s ultra cheesy! This bake is made with creamy ricotta, shredded mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. If you’re a cheese lover, this recipe is for you!
  • It feeds a crowd: This recipe makes a 9×13 inch pasta bake, enough to feed 8 to 10 people.
  • It’s make-ahead and freezer-friendly: You can assemble it ahead and bake the next day or freeze it for up to 3 months.

If you’re a pasta lover, also be sure to check out this Cajun Chicken Alfredo Pasta, Creamy Salmon Pasta, and Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup. Or if you’re thinking about Italian-inspired dishes, try this skillet Chicken Pomodoro!

Ingredient Notes

labeled ingredients to make pasta bake with sausagelabeled ingredients to make pasta bake with sausage

  • Pasta: I use penne pasta, but other shapes like rigatoni, ziti, fusilli, or rotini will do.
  • Italian sausage: Removed from casings, if needed.
  • Minced garlic: Aromatics.
  • Olive oil for pan
  • Marinara sauce: Use your favorite store-bought marinara sauce.
  • Italian seasoning: For flavor.
  • Fresh basil: Infuses the sauce with fresh flavors.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Ricotta: It’s added as a layer in the center, and provides texture and flavor contrast, plus some creaminess.
  • Shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese to top the pasta – lots of it!

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1 | Cook the pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large pot with generously salted water, boil pasta until al dente. Drain and transfer pasta back into the pot.

Tip: The pasta will continue cooking in the oven later, so you don’t overcook it. Cook pasta until al dente (cooked until it’s still a little bit firm when bitten but still tender).

cooking pasta in a potcooking pasta in a pot

Step 2 | Make the sausage and marinara sauce

  1. In a large deep skillet, cook Italian sausage over medium-high heat for about 6-8 minutes, breaking up the meat. Remove any excess oil. Then, push the sausage over to the side and add minced garlic, stirring until fragrant for about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add marinara sauce, fresh basil, and Italian seasoning.
  3. Stir together with the cooked sausage, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release the brown bits. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Let it simmer, uncovered, for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring, until all the flavors have come together.

step by step making the sausage and marinara sauce in potstep by step making the sausage and marinara sauce in pot

Step 3 | Mix pasta and sauce

Transfer about ¾ of the sausage and marinara sauce to the pot with the pasta (cooked and drained). Stir to combine.

pasta tossed with sausage and marinara sauce in a potpasta tossed with sausage and marinara sauce in a pot

Step 4 | Assemble the pasta dish

  1. Transfer the pasta and sauce mixture to a 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. Spoon over the ricotta on top of the pasta, roughly smoothing it over and pushing some of it down.
  3. Top with the remaining sauce.
  4. Top with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses evenly.

assembling sausage pasta bake in a 9x13 inch panassembling sausage pasta bake in a 9x13 inch pan

Step 5 | Bake

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Uncover, and broil on high for 1-2 minutes or so, or until bubbly and beautifully golden brown. Be careful though – broiling can happen really fast, keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn!

melted and golden brown cheese on pasta bakemelted and golden brown cheese on pasta bake

Make Ahead and Freezing Tips

I love that this Italian sausage pasta bake can be made ahead. You can either assemble the entire thing and bake it the next day, or assemble and freeze for up to 3 months.

Make ahead: Let the prepared pasta and Italian sausage and marinara sauce mixture cool completely first. Then, assemble in the baking dish as directed. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bake as directed, adding an extra 5-6 minutes to the baking time or as needed.

Freeze for later: Let the prepared pasta and Italian sausage and marinara sauce mixture cool completely first. Then, assemble in the baking dish as directed. Wrap securely with 2 or 3 layers of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge and then bake as directed, adding an extra 5-8 minutes or so to the baking time.

Pairing and Serving Ideas

My absolute favorite side dish to pair with this delicious Italian sausage pasta bake is this homemade Cheesy Garlic Bread. I also like to serve it with a simple Italian Chopped Salad. Shaved Brussels Sprouts salad would be great too!

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous in the kitchen, try these soft homemade Garlic Herb Dinner Rolls!

If you’re a pasta lover, you’ll love these amazing pasta dinners:

Recipe FAQs

Can I make it ahead?

Yes! Let the pasta and sauce mixture cool completely. Then, assemble in a 9×13 inch baking dish as directed. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bake as directed, adding an extra 5-6 minutes if needed.

Can I freeze it?

Yes! Let the prepared pasta and sauce mixture cool completely first. Then, assemble in the baking dish as directed. Wrap securely with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge and bake as directed, adding an extra 5-8 minutes to the baking time.

What other types of pasta can I use?

Try penne, ziti, rigatoni, rotini or fusilli. Basically, short-sized pastas will work great. I’d recommend using dried pasta (and not fresh pasta) since you’ll need to bake it. Fresh pasta will turn mushy if baked for 35-40 minutes, as this recipe requires.

How can I make this pasta bake vegetarian?

Absolutely! Instead of Italian sausage, use diced zucchini, eggplant. The only thing I’d change in the step-by-step process is this: don’t saute the veggies, just add them to the sauce after simmering. This way, they won’t overcook or turn mushy.

This recipe was published in 2019 and updated in January 2022 to include new photos, kitchen tips, and a few recipe modifications.

Tips for Success

  • Cook the pasta al dente: Al dente pasta means when it’s still got a slightly firm bite. It will continue cooking in the oven, so don’t over-boil it.
  • Use your favorite marinara sauce. Store-bought is totally fine, but if you want to make the sauce from scratch, try this marinara recipe – it’s one of my faves!
  • When broiling, keep a close eye on the sausage pasta bake! Broiling happens very fast, so make sure you keep an eye on it otherwise it will burn. Usually 1-2 minutes are enough.
  • This sausage pasta bake is make-ahead and freezer-friendly! See recipe notes below.

I’d love to hear from you! If you loved my recipe, please consider leaving a 5-star rating and a comment down below. Sign up for my newsletter and follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest!

italian sausage pasta bake with melted cheese on a tray and plateitalian sausage pasta bake with melted cheese on a tray and plate

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4.8

from

10

votes

Italian Sausage Pasta Bake

This easy Italian sausage pasta bake is true comfort food! It’s cheesy and packed with amazing sausage and marinara flavors. It’s also a make-ahead and freezer-friendly recipe!

Prep Time

25

minutes

Cook Time

35

minutes

Total Time

1

hour

Servings

8

people

Calories

679

kcal

Author

Tania

Equipment

  • 9×13 inch baking dish

  • 1 Large pot about 5 to 6 quarts

  • Aluminum foil

Ingredients

  • 1

    pound

    dried penne pasta

  • 1

    pound

    Italian sausage

    casings removed

  • 4

    cloves

    garlic, minced

  • Olive oil for pan

  • 2

    (24 oz) jars

    store-bought marinara sauce

    your favorite brand

  • 1

    teaspoon

    dried Italian seasoning

    plus more to taste

  • ¼

    cup

    chopped fresh basil

    plus more for garnish

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 ½

    cups

    ricotta cheese

  • ½

    cup

    shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

  • 3

    cups

    shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

  • In a large pot with generously salted water, cook pasta according to instructions until al dente. Drain and transfer pasta back into the pot. Tip: Cook pasta until al dente (aka cooked until it’s still a little bit firm when bitten) since it will continue cooking in the oven later.

Make the sausage and marinara sauce:

  • In a large deep skillet, cook sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula. This should take 6-8 minutes. Remove any excess fat with a spoon or absorb it with paper towel. Then, push the sausage over to the side and add minced garlic, stirring until fragrant for about 1-2 minutes (if needed, add more oil for the garlic to cook, but I didn’t find this necessary)

  • Stir in the marinara sauce, fresh basil, and Italian seasoning, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release the brown bits. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  • Bring to a light boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for 6 to 7 minutes (uncovered), stirring occasionally, until all the flavors have come together.

  • Transfer about ¾ of the sausage and marinara sauce to the pot with the pasta (cooked and drained). Stir to combine.

Assemble

  • Transfer the pasta and sauce mixture to a 9×13 inch baking dish.

  • Spoon over the ricotta on top of the pasta, roughly smoothing it over and pushing some of it down.

  • Top with the remaining sausage and marinara sauce.

  • Top with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses evenly.

Bake

  • Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Uncover, and broil on high for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool for a few minutes and serve. Garnish with basil if desired. Enjoy! Tip: Broiling can happen really fast – keep a close up do it doesn’t burn.

Notes

  • If serving fewer people, feel free to cut the recipe in half.
  • Boil pasta until al dente, aka cooked until it’s still a little bit firm when bitten, but still tender.
  • Broiling: Broiling happens very fast, so make sure you keep a close eye on it. Otherwise it could burn or over-broil, and the cheese won’t be melty anymore. Usually 1-2 minutes should be enough, depending on how close it is to the heating element.
  • Storing: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container. You can also cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
  • Make ahead: Let the pasta and sauce mixture cool completely. Then, assemble in a 9×13 inch baking dish as directed. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight. The next day, bake as directed, adding an extra 5 minutes if needed. Broiling time remains the same.
  • Freezing: Let the prepared pasta and sauce mixture cool completely first. Then, assemble in the baking dish as directed. Wrap securely with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge first and then bake as directed, adding an extra 5-8 minutes to the baking time. Broiling time remains the same.

 

 

Substitutions:

  • Pasta shapes: Aside from penne pasta, rigatoni, ziti, farfalle, fusilli, rotini are great.
  • Italian sausage: Any type of Italian sausage – I usually go for mild. Brats work too.
  • Basil: If you can’t find fresh basil, skip it. Add a bit more Italian seasoning to taste instead.
  • Ricotta: Feel free to skip it, but I think it adds nice flavor and texture contrast.

 

 

Disclaimer: Nutritional values (per serving) are approximates only.

Nutrition

Serving:

1

serving

|

Calories:

679

kcal

|

Carbohydrates:

51

g

|

Protein:

34

g

|

Fat:

38

g

|

Saturated Fat:

17

g

|

Polyunsaturated Fat:

3

g

|

Monounsaturated Fat:

14

g

|

Cholesterol:

105

mg

|

Sodium:

1262

mg

|

Potassium:

651

mg

|

Fiber:

3

g

|

Sugar:

6

g

|

Vitamin A:

955

IU

|

Vitamin C:

8

mg

|

Calcium:

418

mg

|

Iron:

3

mg

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