Pasta bake dinners always receive a warm welcome to the table in our house. Kids love them, my husband is happy and I haven’t had to spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen. This Italian Sausage Pasta Bake is one of those family-friendly dinners that get’s everyone in the house excited to eat.
This baked pasta with sausage, tomato sauce and cheese is a wonderful combination of hearty flavors and gooey cheese, making it the perfect comfort food. Think of it like baked ziti but spruced up a bit! The sauce is made with sour cream for a silkier texture than the traditional baked ziti style. But just like a classic baked ziti with sausage, it’s simple to make, allowing you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your meal together.
About the Ingredients for Italian Sausage Pasta Bake
Ground sausage – the sausage adds a ton of flavor to this dish so choose your meat wisely. The flavor of your pasta bake will vary greatly depending on the seasonings in your sausage.
Pasta – the noodle shape isn’t all that important so use what you like. A pasta that coats with sauce easily and doesn’t overwhelm the little bites of sausage is ideal. A really dense, long noodle may subdue the flavor so keep that in mind. I used Garofalo Organic Casarecce for my sausage pasta bake.
Veggies – red bell pepper, yellow onion and garlic.
Seasonings – Italian seasoning, salt and pepper are the basics. If you’re feeling spicy try kicking things up a notch by adding 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes too.
Tomato sauce – you don’t need anything fancy. I love a good homemade tomato sauce but with all of the other flavors being added to this casserole a can of plain tomato sauce works just as well. It also saves you from buying or making way more than you need.
Sour cream – this is the thickener for the sauce. It will also give the dish it’s creamy texture.
Mozzarella cheese – every great casserole has cheese. Mix a little in with the filling and use the rest to top off your dish for an invitingly melty crust.
How to Make Italian Sausage Pasta Bake
Cook the Pasta
Begin by cooking the the pasta according to the package directions.
Cook the Sausage and Veggies
While the pasta cooks, sauté the veggies with the sausage meat. The bell pepper, onion and meat can all cook in on large pan with some olive oil until the the meat is cooked all the way through. When everything is just about done cooking, add the minced garlic and cook for one more minute. Now add the seasonings and turn the heat off on the stove.
Make the Sauce
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the canned tomato sauce, sour cream and half of the shredded mozzarella cheese.
Assemble the Sausage Casserole and Bake
Add the sausage mixture to the mixing bowl with the sauce and give it a good stir. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and spread the casserole filling evenly across the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese and bake until hot and bubbly.
Recipe Substitutions & Variations
Are you a cheese lover like me? Swap out the sour cream for ricotta cheese or marscarpone cheese for an even richer, cheesier taste and texture. Swapping in cheese will elevate your pasta bake to a nearly baked ziti level. The texture will be thicker and the flavor will be saltier, and I’m here for all of it.
Make Ahead Instructions
Don’t you love a casserole that can be made ahead of time? This Italian Sausage Casserole can be assembled up to 3 days in advance and then all you need to do is warm it up and serve it.
To make it ahead of time, follow the recipe up until topping the casserole with cheese. Let the casserole come to room temperature and then top it with cheese. This will keep the cheese from melting prematurely. Cover the dish tightly and refrigerate it for later.
When you’re ready to warm the casserole, let it sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to let it come to room temperature. Then bake it in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes, covered with foil. The foil helps keep the moisture in so the casserole doesn’t dry out. After about 20 minutes, remove the foil and return the baking dish to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Freezer Meal Instructions
Having a casserole in the freezer at the ready is one of the best tricks for getting dinner on the table on busy weeknights. No cooking. No mess to clean. Just grab it out of the freezer the night before so it has time to thaw and warm it up at dinner time. For a busy mom, this is a dream come true.
To turn this easy Italian Sausage Pasta Bake into a freezer meal just follow the recipe all the way through except don’t bake it yet. Let casserole cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic and then foil and move the casserole to the freezer. Frozen, this dish will save for up to two months.
When you’re ready to thaw the pasta bake, move it to the refrigerator overnight the day before. This will help the casserole defrost.
In order to warm the casserole, let it sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes to let it come to room temperature. Then bake it in a 375°F oven for 20 minutes, covered with foil. The foil helps keep the moisture in so the casserole doesn’t dry out. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
FAQ’s and Recipe Tips
If you are baking your pasta bake for more than 15 minutes, yes. The longer it cooks the more sauce will be absorbed by the pasta, drying out your dish. The cover will lock in some moisture. If you’re baking it for less than 15 minutes the pasta bake will simply warm and melt so now cover needed.
Yes, definitely. You can cook it on a baking sheet as whole links or sliced coins. You can also add pre-cooked crumbled sausage to any dish and rebake.
Crumbled meats add great texture to baked ziti. Ground beef, turkey, chicken or sausage are all terrific in baked ziti.
The Recipe for Italian Sausage Pasta Bake
The recipe is attached below for easy downloading and printing. If you test it out be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you thought. Serve your Italian Sausage Bake with some fresh bread and a green salad to complete your meal. Enjoy!
Italian Sausage Pasta Bake
- 12 oz pasta cooked according to package directions
- 1 1/3 lb ground sausage
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- 15 oz can of tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup of sour cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella divided
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Then drain and set aside.12 oz pasta cooked according to package directions
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Cook, sausage, bell pepper and onion until the meat is completely browned, about 7 minutes.1 1/3 lb ground sausage, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow onion
- Add minced garlic and Italian seasoning and continue cooking for two more minutes. Turn off the heat.2 tsp minced garlic, 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
- In a large mixing ball combine tomato sauce, sour cream, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of mozzarella. Then add in the sausage mixture and pasta and mix well.15 oz can of tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of sour cream, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Pour your casserole into a 9×13 baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top it off with the remaining mozzarella and bake for 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.Cooking spray, 2 cups shredded mozzarella