Baked Penne with Sausage

Baked Penne with Sausage is a wonderful make-ahead dish for casual weeknights or special guests.  It’s hearty and flavorful and easy to make.

This dish reminds me of a meat lasagna but so much simpler.  Penne pasta gets mixed with a luscious Italian sausage tomato sauce that includes heavy cream and cheese which makes it creamy and so tasty.  Bake it all in the oven until it’s nicely browned and slightly crispy and you’ve got a hit for dinner!

I love using sweet Italian sausage in place of a traditional ground beef.  It’s got a wonderful Italian flavor.  Feel free to use chicken sausage and to use spicy sausage if you prefer that.  

Once the sausage is browned, remove it from the dutch oven and add in the garlic followed by crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes.  Let this simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add heavy cream and some pecorino romano cheese, the cooked sausage and fresh basil back into the dutch oven and stir until it’s well combined.

Add the sauce to the cooked penne and put half into a baking dish.  Cover the penne with half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the remaining pecorino Romano cheese.  Spoon the rest of the pasta over and sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top.  Transfer this to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and browned.

To serve, sprinkle some fresh basil over the top and enjoy!

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Baked Penne with Sausage

Makes: 8-10 servings

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Bake Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour & 30 minutes


  • 1 pound penne noodles
  • 1 & 1/2 pounds ground spicy or sweet Italian sausage (or removed from casings)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving
  • 8 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ziti according to the package directions for very al dente, about 7 minutes. (It will continue to cook in the oven so you want to undercook it just a bit.) Drain and add the pasta back to the pot. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425°F and set the oven rack in the middle position.

Heat a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked sausage to a plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and set over low heat (if you don’t have enough fat in the pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil). Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Add the cream, 1/3 cup of the pecorino Romano, cooked sausage, and basil to the pan; stir until evenly combined. Carefully pour the contents of the sauté pan into the large pot with the pasta and gently stir to combine. Spoon half of the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the shredded mozzarella and half the remaining pecorino Romano. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and pecorino Romano. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with more basil and serve.

Chef’s Note:

Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The dish can be assembled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days in advance, or frozen for up to 3 months. (If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight.) Whether refrigerated or frozen and defrosted, bake, covered tightly with aluminum foil, in a 425°F oven for 25 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned and the pasta is hot throughout.

Recipe from Once Upon a Chef


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    Avarage Rating:
    • 5 / 5
    Total Reviews:( 1 )
    • Harry

      I love this dish. I make something similar to it with spicy hot sausage. My local butcher is a master at making a hot meat product, especially burgers. I would cut mushrooms into the sauce as well. I find it gives it a bit more hardiness. Thanks for the reminder Fran. I’ll enjoy it your way.

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