This vegetarian rigatoni 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!
Look no further for an easy, flavorful, and comforting dish that will make both vegetarians and meat-eaters happy.
This vegetarian rigatoni bake uses mostly pantry staples and is very easy to customize, so it's perfect for weeknight meals!
- Simple: This rigatoni bake features rigatoni, homemade pasta sauce, meatless sausage, and broiled mozzarella cheese.
- Pantry-friendly: 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.
If you like simple comfort recipes like stuffed shells and baked spaghetti, then you are sure to love this recipe.
- Rigatoni is my go-to pasta for bakes, but any medium-length pasta will work. Try rotini, penne, ziti, macaroni or even protein pasta. I recommend cooking the pasta al dente to prevent it from becoming overcooked in the oven.
- Cheese: I like to use 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 as I did in the image above. I recommend using Italian-style sausages. You can use leftover sausage in vegan sausage gravy.
- Crushed tomatoes: Fire-roasted crushed tomatoes add extra flavor, but regular crushed tomatoes also work in a pinch. Combine with a can of tomato sauce to make a simple homemade pasta sauce.
1. Cook the sausage and onion: Sauté shallots and sausage in a Dutch oven or large pot until golden.
2. Cook the garlic: Once softened, sprinkle in the garlic. Cook until aromatic and golden, about one minute.
3. Make the sauce: Add in the remaining ingredients: salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, tomato sauce, and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, reduce to low heat. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
4. Add the pasta: After 10 minutes, stir cooked pasta into the pasta sauce.
5. Transfer to a baking dish: Lightly spray a 9×13 casserole dish. Transfer the pasta to the dish, smoothing it to make an even layer of pasta.
6. Top with cheese: Evenly spread the mozzarella cheese across the top. Cook at 375 degrees until the cheese is melted. This usually takes about 10 minutes.
Broil: 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.
Top with freshly ground black pepper, basil, and red pepper flakes
- Cook the rigatoni to al dente. This means that it is tender enough to pierce with a fork but still has a bit of a bite to it. The pasta will continue to bake and absorb sauce in the oven, so don't overcook it!
- Veggie additions: You can add cooked veggies to make this meal more hearty. I like adding 1-2 cups of sautéed bell pepper, zucchini, or mushrooms. You can even blend the sauteed veggies into the sauce for a "hidden veggie" sauce. Or serve with a side of roasted broccoli or kale chips.
- Gluten-free option: 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 it.
- Vegan option: 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).
- Can I use jarred pasta sauce? 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 the best results.
Storage and make-ahead tips
- To make in advance: The sauteed veggie sausage, onion, and pasta sauce can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Leftovers: 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.
- Reheating: Heat individual slices in the microwave for about 2 minutes. To reheat the entire casserole, cover with foil or a lid and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.
- Freezing: You can freeze the entire rigatoni bake or individual slices. If freezing the entire dish, let it cool to room temperature before covering tightly with a lid or foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge.
More vegetarian dinner favorites
If you like this rigatoni bake then you'll love my breaded eggplant pasta bake. For a vegan option, try this no-boil pasta bake.
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Vegetarian Rigatoni 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. 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.
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This sounds good! I was wondering if this vegetarian rigatoni recipe freezes well? I'd like to make it as one of the main dishes at my son's rehearsal dinner. Also, do you have a recommendation for gluten free rigatoni noodles? Thank you!!
Hi! I haven't frozen this dish before but I do think it should work. I would cook it as you normally would and then cool it completely before covering and freezing. Let it defrost in the fridge overnight before baking it - I would try baking 325F for 20-25 minutes, adjust as needed. You might want to add an extra sprinkle of cheese too. I don't have a GF noodle recommendation but if you can't find a good rigatoni you can use any type of pasta. Enjoy! 🙂