All you need to know about this hot Italian sausage pasta bake is that I made it after a long, fun, but also tiring day and it still seemed quick and easy.
I had planned to make this dish to photograph and publish here but by the end of the day in question, I talked myself out of it. And then back into it because I had to make SOMETHING for dinner. What I’m saying is: this is a very easy dish and a great way to wind down even the busiest of days.
- Explore: Philly Cheesesteak Pasta Skillet
I love a long-simmered spaghetti sauce, but sometimes there isn’t time for that. I like this recipe because it creates a very comforting tomato sauce even without hours of cooking. It comes out deeply flavored despite the fast cooking time.
I also love this recipe because of the ooey-gooey melted mozzarella cheese. It makes for incredible cheese pull moments while eating and it’s certainly a signature of any good pasta bake recipe.
- Explore: Ricotta Pasta
Though, TBH, the sausage is really the star of the show here. It provides so much to the dish. It adds a hearty, meaty element. But it also provides a ton of flavor and a little bit of spice. Searing the sausage until it’s deeply golden brown adds flavor as does the flavorful fat rendered during the process. You’ll use that fat to sauté the vegetables and build the sauce.
- Shop: Cast-iron Skillet
A tip for saving time while making this dish: build the sauce first and let it simmer. Then boil the pasta water. This gives the sauce time to meld on the stovetop while you’re waiting for the pasta to cook.
Hot Italian Pasta Bake
- ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage sliced into 2-inch pieces on the bias (diagonal cut); see note
- 8 oz button mushrooms cleaned and quartered
- 2 large red bell peppers cut into ½-inch strips
- 1 large shallot peeled, quartered, and cut into thin slices
- 4 cloves garlic peeled, smashed, and roughly chopped
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- ½ tbsp kosher salt
- ½ lb short pasta like penne or cavatappi
- 6 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese grated
- Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
- Place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet (or another heavy, oven-proof high sided skillet) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Then place the sausage pieces in the pan, cut-side down, to brown. Brown for on all sides until deeply golden brown. This should take about 5-7 minutes total.Use tongs to remove browned sausage to a plate. Reserve the fat in the pan.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan with a pinch of salt. Cook until the water starts cooking out of the mushrooms and the mushrooms start to brown. Stir frequently to evenly brown. This should take about 5 minutes.Then add the red pepper and shallots to the pan with the mushrooms. Cook until the vegetables soften and start to brown. Another 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
- Add the tomatoes, water, oregano, basil, and kosher salt to the pan. Bring to a heavy simmer and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the sausage back to the pan with any juices accumulated on the plate. Simmer the sauce for 15-minutes while you boil the pasta.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add a very big pinch of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. Boil until the pasta has slightly more bite than usual (very al dente.) Strain.
- Add the strained pasta to the sauce. Fold it so the pasta is evenly covered in sauce. Stir in ⅓ of the grated mozzarella cheese. Then top with the remaining cheese. Place, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 15-minutes until the sauce is bubbling the cheese is melted and lightly browned.Remove from the oven. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Have sweet Italian sausage? This recipe will work with that too, but if you want spice, add a teaspoon or so of crushed red pepper flakes.
- I really like to cut the sausage on the bias here because it offers more surface area for browning which equals flavor.
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