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Pasta al Forno is a classic Italian baked pasta dish that’s hearty, comforting, and perfect for family dinners or special occasions. This recipe combines rigatoni pasta with a savory Italian sausage sauce, topped with melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese for a deliciously rich and satisfying meal. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the step-by-step process of making Pasta al Forno, provide helpful cooking notes, and offer variations to suit different tastes and dietary preferences.


  • 1 lb rigatoni pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 (1 lb) can tomato puree
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, shredded


Step 1: Prepare the Pasta

  1. Cook the Rigatoni:
    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    • Add the rigatoni pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
    • Drain the pasta and set aside.

Step 2: Make the Sauce

  1. Heat the Olive Oil:
    • In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the Onion and Garlic:
    • Add the diced onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until soft and translucent.
    • Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Cook the Italian Sausage:
    • Add the Italian sausage to the skillet, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks.
    • Cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through.
  4. Add the Tomato Puree and Seasonings:
    • Stir in the tomato puree, salt, black pepper, and oregano.
    • Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

Step 3: Assemble the Pasta al Forno

  1. Combine the Pasta and Sauce:
    • In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked rigatoni pasta with the sausage sauce.
    • Stir until the pasta is evenly coated with the sauce.
  2. Add Mozzarella Cheese:
    • Stir in 1 ½ cups of the shredded mozzarella cheese until well combined.
  3. Prepare the Baking Dish:
    • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
    • Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil.
  4. Assemble in the Baking Dish:
    • Pour the pasta and sauce mixture into the prepared baking dish.
    • Spread it out evenly.
  5. Top with Remaining Cheese:
    • Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese and the shredded parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

Step 4: Bake the Pasta al Forno

  1. Bake:
    • Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the top is golden brown.
  2. Cool:
    • Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

Step 5: Serve

  1. Serve:
    • Serve the Pasta al Forno hot, garnished with fresh basil or parsley if desired.
    • Pair with a side salad and garlic bread for a complete meal.

Cook Notes and Variations

Cook Notes:

  • Pasta: Make sure to cook the pasta until al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven.
  • Cheese: Feel free to use a combination of cheeses like provolone, fontina, or gouda for added flavor.
  • Sausage: Use mild or spicy Italian sausage depending on your preference.


  • Vegetarian Version:
    • Replace the Italian sausage with sautéed vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms.
  • Gluten-Free Version:
    • Use gluten-free rigatoni pasta and ensure the tomato puree and other ingredients are gluten-free.
  • Spicy Version:
    • Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sauce for a spicy kick.
  • Herb Variation:
    • Add 1 teaspoon of dried basil or thyme for an additional layer of flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Can I use a different type of pasta?

Yes, you can use other types of pasta like penne, ziti, or fusilli. Just make sure to cook it until al dente.

2. How do I store leftovers?

Store any leftover Pasta al Forno in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat in the oven or microwave before serving.

3. Can I make this dish ahead of time?

Yes, you can assemble the dish ahead of time and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before baking. Add a few extra minutes to the baking time if baking straight from the refrigerator.

4. What can I serve with Pasta al Forno?

Pasta al Forno pairs well with a simple green salad, garlic bread, or steamed vegetables.

5. Can I freeze Pasta al Forno?

Yes, you can freeze the assembled but unbaked dish. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking.

Pasta al Forno is a classic and comforting dish that’s perfect for any occasion. With its savory Italian sausage sauce, tender rigatoni pasta, and melted cheese topping, this baked pasta dish is sure to be a hit with your family and friends. Whether you’re making it for a weeknight dinner or a special meal, this recipe is easy to follow and full of flavor. Give this Pasta al Forno recipe a try and enjoy a delicious and hearty Italian meal. Happy cooking!

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