This easy Baked Mostaccioli is loaded with ooey gooey cheese and yummy Italian sausage all smoothered in a creamy tomato sauce. 

Baked mostaccioli was a pretty regular feature on the dinner table when I was growing up. I think it was for a lot of people. That hearty, cheesy dish was a family favorite – and still is, in fact. This baked mostaccioli recipe isn’t as hard as you might think, and will be a perfect addition to your weeknight meal routine.

If you want a dish with rich layers of meaty, flavorful goodness, this is the dish for you. This mostaccioli recipe with sausage is sort of like the cousin to lasagna – though the preparation is so much simpler and it requires a ton less work. No one will ever guess that you didn’t spend all day in the kitchen!

I love that this recipe is incredibly versatile. The ingredients called for are readily available in your pantry and in stores. You can also use ingredients that you already have on hand. Try something new. Turkey meat? Sure! Adding vegetables? Absolutely. Mostaccioli with ricotta? Definitely. Extra cheese? Sounds awesome! (Someone should start a mostaccioli wiki with all the additions and variations on this dish.)

Give this awesome dish a try. You’ll fall in love with baked pasta, and mostaccioli!

Recipe Notes:

Pasta: What is mostaccioli pasta (not to be confused with mostaccioli cookies)? Well, for those who need an official mostaccioli definition, mostaccioli is a specialty pasta from southern Italy. It’s called “penne lisce” in Italy, but here in America it has a much cuter name – “mostaccioli” or “little mustaches.” It is a smooth textured tube pasta with angel cut ends. The pasta pieces look sort of like penne noodles, only slightly larger.

Tip: To sound like a pro chef, making sure that your mostaccioli pronunciation involves a “ch” sound where the double “c” is.)

I use mostaccioli because that’s what I’m used to. But it’s absolutely fine to substitute penne or ziti noodles.

Make sure that you use a quality mostaccioli noodles (or a substitute) when making this dish. Less than quality noodles won’t hold up in the finished baked dish. I generally use Barilla. 

 

Pasta Water: I grew up believing that you have to salt the water that you are boiling the pasta in, but it took me a long time to understand exactly why. I knew that the salt was supposed to help the pasta taste better, but how exactly does that happen. If you’ve heard that the salt lowers the boiling point of the water… well, that’s a myth. The amount of salt isn’t going to affect the boiling point. So why does the salt matter?

Here’s why. We all know that the pasta absorbs the water as it cooks. So it makes sense that if the water is salted, the pasta will absorb some of the salt as well. That means the pasta is getting flavored from the inside out. Salted water means better tasting pasta. And that’s important, because the pasta is the bedrock of the rest of your dish. If your pasta is bland, even delicious sauce will be hard pressed to improve the flavor. But if your pasta is well seasoned, even bland sauce will taste decent.

Tip: When you use salt in your pasta water, you can reduce the amount of extra salt in the sauce recipe.

But what is the proper amount of salt to use in your water? I’ve tried various ratios and measurements – some yielding bland pasta, and some yielding pasta that is so salty that it’s nearly inedible. The best ratio I’ve found is to use 1 1/2–2 tablespoons of salt in about 6 quarts of water.

Cooking to Al Dente: This recipe calls for you to cook the pasta until it is “al dente.” This means that you want the pasta to be firm when you bite it – not hard, just firm. It’s important that you don’t overcook the pasta, al dente pasta is perfect for this recipe. This is because the pasta will continue to cook and absorb the sauce when it’s in the baking dish. If you’ve overcooked the pasta in the boiling water, it will come out mushy after cooking in the baking dish.

Baked Mostaccioli

Sauce: If you have a favorite homemade marinara sauce, by all means use it! The delicious taste of homemade, slow cooked red sauce is virtually unmatched in the pasta sauce world.

However, as much as I love homemade sauce, using a good quality jarred sauce makes the preparation of this dish a ton easier. It cuts the prep time down significantly, which means this recipe is doable on a weeknight.

If you choose to go with a jarred sauce, here are the brands that I recommend. These have been used by me on several occasions, and are recommended by some of the top food websites:

  1. Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce – This sauce is the number one choice of both Serious Eats and Cooking Light. It does cost about nine dollars a bottle, so choosing to buy this sauce is a bit of a splurge. It’s a very flavorful sauce, but its cost ensures that I really only use it when I’m serving it over plain spaghetti.
  2. Bertolli Tomato and Basil Sauce – This sauce is recommended by Cook’s Illustrated via their County Cooks division. It’s a solid sauce at a manageable price.
  3. Classico Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce – If you’re noticing a pattern, congratulations! You’ve picked up on the fact that, yes, basil does add a ton of flavor to jarred pasta sauces. Cooking Light lists this sauce as a “great value.”

You will notice that this recipe also uses a jar of Alfredo sauce. If you want to make that from scratch, I would recommend making a béchamel or a thicker white sauce. Let me tell you though, the jarred alfredo sauce is great in this recipe and you certainly can’t beat it for ease of preparation!

Herbs: I love using dried “Italian Seasoning ” in this recipe. It’s awesome that I can get a great combination of herbs in a single little jar. Generally you’ll find that Italian seasonings include oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and savory.

Cooking Ahead: If you are interested in preparing this dish ahead of time, here are the instructions:

  1. Assembly the dish completely according to instructions.
  2. Refrigerate in an airtight container.
  3. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Baked, covered, for 50-60 minutes.

Freezing Instructions: If you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll know that I love recipes that freeze well. To freeze this recipe, follow these instructions:

    1. Assemble the dish completely according to instructions up to the baking. (Don’t bake)
    2. Cover the dish and freeze for up to three months.
    3. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
    4. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.
    5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    6. Baked, covered, for 50-60 minutes.

Mostaccioli with ricotta:  

If you’d like your Mostaccioli to taste more like lasagna and be a bit heavier, add ricotta cheese. Follow the recipe as directed but I’d suggest you use a larger 3 quart baking dish. At step 4 simply add half the sauced pasta to the baking dish, then spread 1-15 ounce container of ricotta in a layer over the pasta, then top with the remaining pasta. Sprinkle the top with remaining mozzarella and parmesean. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven until heated through and cheese is melted.