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We enjoy having people in our home, but part of what I find makes it enjoyable is not slaving in the kitchen ahead of time. I want to be talking with our guests, not hiding in the kitchen finishing up dinner. So when we have people over, I like to have a meal option that can not only be prepped ahead of time, but that doesn’t require any active labor while it’s cooking! This cheesy sausage pasta bake fits the bill, and it’s a big hit with both kids and grownups. Serve it with a salad and some garlic bread and you have a simple meal that can feed a crowd.
Cheesy Sausage Pasta Bake
This cheesy sausage pasta bake is also very versatile! You can use any smaller sized pasta (bowtie, fusilli, rigatoni, shells, etc.), any sauce you prefer, and you can even mix in other vegetables if you want. When I want to include a vegetable, I mix in frozen spinach between the layers.
The first step is to cook your pasta and drain it, and then cook your sausage and drain it, and shred your mozzarella cheese if it’s not already shredded. You’ll also want your sauce nearby. This pasta bake has five main layers: sauce, pasta, sausage, mozzarella, and then the filling, which you’ll make first.
The filling includes ricotta cheese, parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and an egg. This adds creamy goodness to the pasta bake. (Note: You can also use cottage cheese instead of ricotta; it will make the texture a bit different, but it’s still delicious!) You’ll stir together until it’s all combined.
Now you’re ready to start layering your pasta bake.
The first layer is sauce, just a thin layer.
Then you’ll spread half the pasta over the sauce.
Now it’s time for the filling layer. This one can be hard to spread out, but don’t worry about presentation. I put big blobs of half of the filling and then use the back of a spoon to spread it around as much as possible.
Now sprinkle half the sausage over the filling.
Now spread half of the remaining sauce over the sausage.
Sprinkle half of the mozzarella (about 2 cups) on top of the sauce. (Notice there are some noodles peeking through in this picture; I got a little ahead of myself with the layer.)
You’ll layer the rest of the pasta AFTER you sprinkle the mozzarella!
Now spread the rest of the filling over the pasta.
Then sprinkle the rest of the sausage on top.
Now it’s time to spread the rest of the sauce over the top.
And then the final layer! Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on the very top, and you’re done. I sometimes add some extra parmesan and some parsley or oregano on top for some color, but that isn’t necessary. It’s going to be delicious either way.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until cheese on top starts to brown.
When it comes out, give it time to cool before you dig in. As I said earlier, you can prepare the entire pasta bake ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, baking it right before you’re ready to eat dinner. The last time we had friends over, I prepped the pasta bake while I was cleaning up from lunch, so all I had to do was remember to preheat the oven and put it in before our guests came.
- 16 oz pasta, cooked
- 1 lb. Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled, and drained
- 1 jar pasta sauce
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded.
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- extra parmesan, optional
- Cook the pasta and drain it; cook the sausage and drain it; shred the mozzarella cheese.
- Make the filling by combining the ricotta cheese, Italian seasoning, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and egg.
- Spread some of the sauce on the bottom of a 13x9 pan and cover the bottom.
- Layer half the pasta over the sauce.
- Spread half the filling over the pasta, then sprinkle half of the sausage on top of the filling.
- Spread half of the remaining sauce over the sausage.
- Sprinkle half of the mozzarella on top of the sauce, then layer the remaining pasta over the top of the cheese.
- Spread the rest of the filling over the pasta, then sprinkle on the rest of the sausage.
- Spread the rest of the sauce on top of that.
- Sprinkle with the rest of the mozzarella, then bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until cheese on top starts to brown.