Cheesy baked rigatoni with italian sausage, burst cherry tomatoes, spinach, garlicky marinara sauce, and LOTS of mozzarella. It’s baked until golden & bubbling, then topped with fresh herbs and parmesan. One of my favorite easy dinners for any night of the week, and it has lots of family history to it! Excited to be sharing it with all of you so you can have a little nostalgic, italian comfort food right in your own homes.
cheesy baked rigatoni – the story
This cheesy baked rigatoni has a very special story. It’s a recipe I developed for my family’s Chicago pizza concept, Nancy’s Pizzeria. Nancy’s has been around for years. The first one opened in 1971 when Rocco Palese invented the Chicago stuffed pizza. My dad and Rocco became close friends and eventually started working together. My dad then grew the company over the years and opened many Nancy’s around the Chicago area. Fast forward to today and we’ve got our whole family in the pizza business!
While Nancy’s pizza recipes have always remained the same, we set out to update some of the other menu items – everything from new salads to some fun apps and a few decadent pastas. One of them being this cheesy baked rigatoni!
The menu item at Nancy’s used to be just a regular, classic baked mostaccioli. And while it was delicious, I wanted to add just a little bit more flavor and some hearty additions. This pasta turned into one that you could eat as a complete, main meal.
It’s one of my absolute favorites from the menu and one I make for myself all the time at home. So excited to be sharing it here on the blog so you can bring a little bit of our family history into your own homes!
And trust me, there’s nothing not to love about this *very* cheesy pasta. Rigatoni pasta tossed with a simple garlicky marinara sauce, sliced italian sausage, burst cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach, and parmesan cheese.
It’s then layered into a baking dish with mozzarella in the middle (the secret touch) AND on top. Baked until golden and bubbling and ohhh so tasty. It’s simply so good, and one of those easy pasta recipes you can come back to time and time again. Enjoy!
Note: One of the reasons this pasta is so good at Nancy’s is that we use really high quality ingredients and make our own homemade marinara sauce. Try to get Italian sausage links fresh from the butcher, use really good quality mozzarella and parmesan, and a marinara you love. I use Rao’s Marinara Sauce at home, and while not completely the same, definitely works really well!Print
Cheesy Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage
a cheesy, comforting baked rigatoni full of italian sausage, burst cherry tomatoes, garlic, spinach, marinara, and lots of mozzarella cheese
- 1 lb mild italian sausage links
- 1 tbsp + ¼ cup olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 lb rigatoni
- 1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp ground oregano
- ¼ lb (or 2 large handfuls) fresh spinach
- 1 (24oz) jar (about 2 ½ cups) marinara sauce
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¾ lb shredded mozzarella cheese
- ½ lb fresh mozzarella cheese, drained + sliced ¼”
- garnishes: chopped parsley + more grated parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the sausage links on a sheet pan and drizzle with the tablespoon of olive oil. Coat well. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Transfer the sausage to a cutting board. Once cool enough to handle, slice the sausage into ¼” pieces.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Once boiling, drop the rigatoni. Stir well and cook for 1 minute less than the package’s instructions.
- Simultaneously, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot oven over medium-high heat. Add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 3 minutes until the tomatoes burst open and release some juice. Stir in the garlic and oregano.
- Add the spinach and let wilt slightly. Stir in the marinara sauce, along with the sliced sausage. Retrieve a ½ cup of pasta water from the pot and add it to the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Stir in the parmesan cheese and let melt.
- Drain the pasta when it’s done and add it right to the sauce. Stir to combine. Cook for another minute or so until the sauce clings to the pasta.
- Grease a large 10x14x3” baking dish with olive oil. Pour in half of the pasta. Top with half of the shredded mozzarella. Pour in the remaining pasta. Top with the sliced fresh mozzarella and remaining shredded mozzarella. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Broil on high for 1-2 more minutes until golden.
- Serve with a pinch of fresh parsley and grated parmesan over top.