Preheat your oven to 350, because we’re making Baked Rigatoni Fra Diavolo with Sausage and Zucchini for dinner tonight! Featuring a spicy tomato sauce loaded with fresh herbs, Italian sausage, tender zucchini, and tons of gooey cheese! This is Summer comfort food at its best!
Baked Rigatoni with Zucchini and Sausage
Hey and hi! I’m always excited to share a new pasta recipe with you… because hello: we both LOVE carbs! But today I’m extra excited! Because this new recipe is a doozy. But in the best way possible! That’s because it’s actually a combination of 3 popular pasta recipes all packed into one baking dish!
Let me explain! So in the past, I’ve shared with you:
- baked rigatoni with beef: kind of like baked ziti but with a hearty meat sauce and tons of gooey mozzarella cheese!
- rigatoni with sausage, tomatoes, and zucchini: AKA Summer in a skillet! The pasta sauce is light, fresh, and so flavorful!
- classic spaghetti fra diavolo: a spicy classic featuring crushed red peppers, olive oil, garlic, and TONS of fresh herbs! And ready in like 20 minutes!
All of these recipes are total rockstars on their own! But when combined… oh my gosh! The flavors and textures are OUT OF THIS WORLD! This is definitely a heavier Summer dinner recipe, but so perfect for those nights you’re craving comfort food!
And bonus: you can make and assemble most of this ahead of time. Then cover with foil and bake when needed.
Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Like all pasta recipes, you’ll bring a large pot of water to a boil. Unlike all pasta recipes, you’ll want to undercook the pasta! So when you toss the rigatoni into the boiling water, set a timer and only cook it for 7 minutes! You want the pasta VERY al dente (aka not cooked all the way!). Because it will continue to cook in the oven! Over cooking the pasta will lead to mushy noodles. Drain the pasta, quickly rinse it under cool water, then set aside.
- If you’re not a fan of spicy food, you may reduce the crushed red pepper flakes or completely omit them from the recipe.
- To ensure the sausage is completely cooked through, you’ll want to cook, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat and heat until browned.
- And to ensure the zucchini doesn’t get soggy, you’ll also cook that separately, remove it from the pan, and blot off any excess water and oil. This might sound strange, but trust me, it’s worth it!
- Finally, I suggest using a combination of shredded and cubed cheese. So you’ll shred one cup of mozzarella and cube the other. This leads to maximum melted gooey cheese goodness!
Once this recipe is in the oven, it’ll take about 30 minutes to bake! But I’d say it’ll take you an hour overall.
More Pasta Recipes:
- Pasta Puttanesca
- Easy Tomato and Spinach Pasta
- Pasta with Broccoli
- Roasted Garlic and Lemon Rigatoni with Brown Butter and Gruyere
Baked Rigatoni Fra Diavolo with Sausage and Zucchini
- 1 pound uncooked rigatoni pasta
- 2 large zucchini, chopped into 1/4" rounds
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- (1) 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil
- 3/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound (16 ounces) part-skim mozzarella cheese, half shredded and half cut into 1" cubes
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Warm 1/4 cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Add in the sliced zucchini and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spatula, remove the zucchini from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate. Place a paper towel on top of the zucchini to absorb excess moisture and set aside.
- Add the ground sausage to the skillet and, using a wooden spoon, break it into small pieces. Cook until brown and no pink color remains, about 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage from the pan and transfer it to a large plate. Set aside until needed.
- Drain any excess grease from the pan, then return it to the stovetop. Reduce heat to medium, and add in the remaining oil. Add in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft, about 8 minutes. Add in the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, breaking it up with a wooden spoon.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, wine (or broth), and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in the basil, mint, and parsley and season with salt and pepper.
- Finally, stir the cooked sausage and zucchini into the sauce and remove from heat.
- In the meantime, add the rigatoni into the boiling water and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, or until very al dente. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Immediately add the meat sauce and stir well to combine.
- Pour pasta into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with shredded and cubed mozzarella. Then place pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling.
- Serve warm, with Parmesan cheese!