This Pasta al Forno is rigatoni pasta tossed in a savory meat sauce, then topped with plenty of cheese and baked to perfection. A hearty main course option that’s perfect for feeding a large group.

Whenever I’m looking to feed a crowd, I turn to hearty pasta dishes such as cheese tortellini in meat sauce, baked spaghetti, shrimp linguine, spinach lasagna, chicken parmesan pasta, or this meaty and cheesy Pasta al Forno. This pasta dish always gets rave reviews from family and friends!

Pasta al Forno is hearty rigatoni noodles tossed in a savory meat sauce then topped with cheese and baked. #pasta #dinneratthezoo Pasta al Forno is hearty rigatoni noodles tossed in a savory meat sauce then topped with cheese and baked. #pasta #dinneratthezoo

A spoon serving up a portion of Pasta al Forno with rigatoni and sausage.

Whenever I go to my local Italian restaurant, I order the Pasta al Forno. You just can’t go wrong with a bubbling hot plate of pasta! My version of this dish is loaded with flavor, and tastes even better than what you’d get at a restaurant.

What is Al Forno style?

Al Forno is an Italian phrase that refers to food that’s been baked in the oven. This term typically applies to dishes such as pizza, pasta and breads such as focaccia. In this particular case, Pasta al Forno refers to baked pasta, often topped with melted cheese.

Browned sausage and onions in a pan.

How do you make Pasta al forno?

Start by making the sauce, which consists of sauteed Italian sausage, marinara sauce, garlic and onions. Next, boil your pasta until it’s al dente, then toss the cooked pasta with the sausage mixture. Place the pasta in a baking dish, then add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese on top. Bake the pasta covered, then uncovered until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Add a sprinkle of fresh parsley, then serve and enjoy.

Meat pasta sauce in a skillet.

Tips for the perfect pasta

  • I typically make this dish with rigatoni, but any short pasta will work such as penne, ziti, rotini or fusilli.
  • Skip the bagged pre-shredded cheese and grate your own mozzarella. I find that pre-shredded cheeses are often coated in preservatives and anti-caking agents, and they don’t melt as smoothly.
  • This dish can be assembled up to 8 hours before you plan to bake it. You may need to add another 10-15 minutes to the baking time to compensate for starting with a cold casserole.
  • Leftover pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can reheat leftover pasta in a covered dish at 325 degrees F until warmed through, or reheat individual portions in the microwave.
  • While I typically make this dish with mild Italian sausage, hot sausage will also work just fine.
  • You can use homemade marinara sauce or store bought, they’ll both work just fine!

A dish of rigatoni tossed in meat sauce and topped with shredded cheese.

Pasta al forno flavor variations

This Pasta al Forno recipe is delicious as written, but you can easily customize it to your tastes.

  • Protein: Instead of Italian sausage, you can use ground beef, ground turkey, diced cooked chicken, or even meatballs that have been cut into quarters.
  • Vegetables: Feel free to add some cooked veggies to the sauce such as spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini or bell peppers.
  • Flavorings: Looking to amp up the flavor? Add a handful of olives, a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or a splash of heavy cream.
  • Cheese: Instead of mozzarella, feel free to swap in another type of cheese such as fontina or provolone.

A plate of Pasta al Forno topped with melted cheese and parsley.

Can you freeze baked pasta?

This pasta dish is a great candidate for the freezer, I typically assemble it, then freeze it unbaked. Pasta al Forno will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 2 months. You can bake your pasta from frozen, simply add another 20-30 minutes to the bake time.

Once you try this baked pasta, you’ll find yourself making it on a regular basis, it’s just that good!

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Enjoy

Pasta al Forno Video

5 from 18 votes

Pasta al Forno

AuthorSara Welch
A spoon serving up a portion of Pasta al Forno with rigatoni and sausage.
This Pasta al Forno is rigatoni pasta tossed in a savory meat sauce, then topped with plenty of cheese and baked to perfection. A hearty main course option that's perfect for feeding a large group.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time1 hour 35 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine Italian
Serves 8


For the sauce

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds mild Italian sausage casings removed
  • 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons garlic minced
  • 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce

For assembly

  • 16 ounces rigatoni or other short pasta cooked according to package directions in salted water
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
  • cooking spray


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray.

For the sauce

  • Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the sausage to the pan.
  • Cook the sausage for 3-4 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces with a spoon. Add the onion to the pan. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and cooked through and onion is softened.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the marinara sauce and tomato sauce to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer.
  • Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes or until just thickened

For assembly

  • Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce.
  • Pour the pasta mixture into the prepared pan and top with mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and cheese is melted and browned.
  • Sprinkle with parsley. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.


Calories: 601kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 102mg | Sodium: 726mg | Potassium: 863mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 680IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 189mg | Iron: 4mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. This looks delicious. Can I divide the recipe between 2 9×9 pans? How long will I cook the dish if I do this?

  2. 5 stars
    The Pasta al Forno was absolutely delicious. I substituted mild sausage for hot sausage. It was a big hit. I will definitely I rely be adding this to my recipe collection. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! If I could, I would give this 10 stars ⭐️

  3. 5 stars
    We love this. I generally do a half recipe as it is just the two of us, but just made a full one by mistake. That’s fine as we have lunch/dinner for tomorrow, just before we travel.

  4. 5 stars
    Any recommendations on baking time if I wanted to up the temp to 375? It’s only because I want to make breadsticks with it, and it would be so much easier if they both bake at the same temperature lol.

  5. 5 stars
    Whenever given a choice my kids always go for a baked pasta over a simply tossed with sauce pasta. There is something irresistible about that bubbly, golden cheese on top and this dish is no exception. Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe!

  6. 5 stars
    Extra cheese for me, please! Actually, it was just the right amount of cheese and everyone loved it.