This rigatoni pasta bake is one of those recipes that just screams comfort. With a homemade tomato sauce, vegetarian sausage and an ultra cheesy topping, you are going to want to make this again and again!
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Look no further for an easy, flavorful and comforting dish that will make both vegetarians and meat eaters happy. This recipe uses mostly pantry staples and is very easy to customize, so it's perfect for weeknight meals!
Why this recipe works
- Pantry staples - Shelf stable ingredients like tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes and pasta make for a fuss-free but delicious meal.
- Flavorful - Taking a little extra time to make a quick homemade tomato sauce takes this recipe to the next level!
- Easy substitutions - Different kinds of pasta can be used and this recipe can be made gluten-free and vegan.
Ingredients you'll need
Rigatoni is my go-to pasta for bakes, but any medium length pasta will work. Try rotini, penne, macaroni or even protein pasta. I recommend cooking the pasta to al dente to prevent it from becoming overcooked in the oven. Rigatoni can also be used in this butternut squash mac and cheese.
Cheese: I love using thick cut "farm style" mozzarella cheese. You can always swap dairy cheese with vegan cheese to make this recipe vegan.
Meatless sausage: A meatless ground works best here, but if you can't find one you can just roughly chop up sausage links like I did in the image above. I recommend using Italian-style sausages. Use leftover sausage in vegan sausage gravy.
Crushed tomatoes: Fire-roasted crushed tomatoes add extra flavor, but if these are not available you can use regular crushed tomatoes.
Step by step instructions
1. Sauté shallots and sausage in a Dutch oven or large pot until golden.
2. Once softened, sprinkle in the garlic. Cook until aromatic and golden, about one minute.
3. Add in the remaining ingredients: salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, reduce to low heat. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
4. After 10 minutes, stir cooked pasta into the pasta sauce.
5. Lightly spray a 9×13 casserole dish. Transfer the pasta to the dish, smoothing to make an even layer of pasta.
6. Evenly spread the mozzarella cheese across the top. Cook at 375 degrees until the cheese is melted. This usually takes about 10 minutes.
Once the cheese is melted, turn the heat to broil. Broil until golden and bubbly. Make sure to keep an eye on the pasta while it broils so that the cheese doesn't burn.
FAQ and Expert Tips
Veggies - You can add cooked veggies to make this meal more hearty. I like adding 1-2 cups of sautéed bell pepper, zucchini or mushrooms.
Serve topped with freshly ground black pepper, basil and red pepper flakes on top.
Yes. You can replace regular rigatoni with a gluten-free pasta of your choice. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Many meatless sausages are made with vital wheat gluten, so check for a gluten-free option or simply omit.
Yes. Replace mozzarella with your favorite vegan mozzarella. Vegan mozzarella may not broil as well, so bake until the cheese is melted. Choose a meatless sausage that is 100% vegan (sometimes they will contain egg or milk).
I cover the casserole dish with foil and store it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. You can also slice and store it in individual containers for a grab-and-go meal. Heating individual slices in the microwave for about 2 minutes is the best way to reheat it.
Jarred pasta sauce is typically thicker than pasta bake sauces which yields a different consistency when baked. I recommend sticking to the homemade sauce for best results.
More vegetarian dinner favorites
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Vegetarian Rigatoni Pasta Bake with Sausage
- 16 ounces dry rigatoni pasta
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium shallots finely chopped, see note #1
- 6 ounces ground meatless sausage see note #2
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 2-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon salt-free Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 28 ounces fire roasted crushed tomatoes
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 and ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- basil for serving
- red pepper flakes optional, for serving
- Boil rigatoni until al dente based on package instructions. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Meanwhile, heat a Dutch oven or medium pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, drizzle in olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and sausages to the hot oil. Sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until shallots are softened and sausage is browned.
- Once softened, add minced garlic. Sauté until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients: Italian seasoning, sugar, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce. Stir to combine. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, reduce to low heat. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After 10 minutes, taste for seasonings. Stir the drained cooked pasta into the pasta sauce.
- Lightly spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking oil. Transfer the pasta to the dish, smoothing to make an even layer of pasta. Evenly spread the mozzarella cheese across the top.
- Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Once melted, turn the oven up to broil. Broil until bubbly and golden. Depending on your oven this may take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
- Once golden, remove from the oven and top with freshly ground black pepper, basil and optional red pepper flakes. Serve and enjoy!
- Shallots: Can be replaced with white or yellow onion if needed.
- Meatless sausage: I recommend using ground meatless sausage to reduce prep time, but links will also work. Finely chop the links if using. I like to use Italian sausage for extra herby flavor.
- Vegan option: Replace mozzarella with a vegan mozzarella or your favorite vegan shreds. Choose a vegan meatless sausage.
- Gluten-free option: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta. Vegetarian sausage often contain gluten in the form of vital wheat gluten, so either omit or choose your favorite alternative.
- Veggies: Sautéed or cooked veggies make a great addition. Add 1-2 cups of zucchini, mushrooms or peppers in with the pasta.
- Leftovers: Cover and keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. Reheat individual serving in the microwave until warmed through, about 2 minutes.