It took me a while to get this recipe right, I will admit. I wanted to make a baked pasta version of sausage and peppers, but after several attempts, it still wasn’t coming out the way I had envisioned it. All attempts were well-received by the family and friends who were my “guinea pigs”, but I knew it needed something. And that something turned out to be ricotta! It needed a bit of creaminess, so I blended ricotta cheese in with the sauce mixture and that did the trick. It was hearty without being overly creamy, and the sausage and peppers flavor came through with every bite. I think the ricotta tied it all together. To be honest, you wouldn’t even know there was ricotta in it if you weren’t told. It creates more of a rich, pink sauce that sticks beautifully to the pasta and goes perfectly with the sausage and peppers.
And it makes a ton!
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. sausage, casings removed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into small strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into small strips
1 large onion, cut into small strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
½ tsp. salt
1 lb. rigatoni
3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1 cup ricotta
½ cup grated Parmesan, divided
1. Heat oil in a large skillet and begin to brown the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. Add the peppers, onions, and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, Italian seasoning, and salt. Cover and cook on low for 20 minutes
2. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Cook rigatoni according to package directions, however remove the rigatoni and drain it a minute or two early as it will continue to cook in the oven.
3. Add the rigatoni, ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese to the sausage and pepper mixture. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish, then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the pasta. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and everything is hot and bubbly.
Serve with additional Parmesan cheese if you like things extra cheesy. 😊