Baked Mostaccioli with Sausage

published Oct 28, 2021
Mostaccioli Recipe

Whether you call it baked ziti or mostaccioli, it's impossible to dislike this tender pasta dish tossed in red sauce, topped with cheese, and baked until bubbling and browned.


Prep25 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 1 hour

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Credit: Photo: Jenny Bravo | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

If you’re not familiar with mostaccioli, it’s time to get acquainted. The comforting, crowd-pleasing casserole is filled with tender pasta, melted cheese, marinara sauce, and sweet Italian sausage (aka what we’re all craving during the fall and winter months). Make it for dinner, meal prep it for the week, or bring it to a potluck — there’s no wrong way to enjoy it.

Credit: Photo: Jenny Bravo | Food Stylist: Catrine Kelty

What’s the Difference Between Penne Pasta and Mostaccioli? 

Penne and mostaccioli are both dried, tubular pastas that are very similar in shape and can be used interchangeably. The difference between them is their texture: penne noodles have small ridges, whereas mostaccioli is smooth.

Is Mostaccioli Similar to Baked Ziti? 

Yes. The two dishes are essentially the same — the main difference being that mostaccioli uses mostaccioli pasta, not ziti. Both dishes consist of pasta tossed in red sauce, topped with cheese, and baked until browned.

Can I Make Mostaccioli Ahead of Time?

Yes! One of the best things about this recipe is that you can assemble it up to two days in advance, wrap it in plastic wrap or foil, and store it in the fridge. When ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap or foil and bake as instructed in the recipe, adding a few additional minutes if the cheese isn’t browning.

Mostaccioli Recipe

Whether you call it baked ziti or mostaccioli, it's impossible to dislike this tender pasta dish tossed in red sauce, topped with cheese, and baked until bubbling and browned.

Prep time 25 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 3 cloves


  • 2 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup)

  • 8 ounces

    full-fat, low-moisture mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    uncooked sweet Italian sausage, preferably bulk

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1

    (about 24-ounce) jar marinara sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound

    dried mostaccioli or penne pasta

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole-milk ricotta cheese

  • 12

    large fresh basil leaves


  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, finely chop 1 medium yellow onion (about 1 cup). Mince 3 garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon). Finely grate 2 ounces Parmesan cheese on the smallest holes of a box grater (about 1/2 cup) and grate 8 ounces mozzarella cheese on the large holes (about 2 cups).

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (remove casings first if needed) and cook, breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula into small pieces, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and soft, 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Add 1 (about 24-ounce) jar marinara sauce, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer while you cook the pasta, 10 to 15 minutes.

  4. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook 3 minutes less than al dente, 6 to 7 minutes for mostaccioli or according to package directions. Meanwhile, place the parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, 1 large egg, and 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese in a medium bowl and until well combined.

  5. Drain the pasta and transfer it into the pot of sauce. Turn the heat off and toss until the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce. Transfer the pasta into a 9x13-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Dollop the ricotta mixture evenly over the top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

  6. Bake uncovered until the cheese is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. As the mostaccioli is cooling, tear 12 fresh basil leaves into large irregular pieces and scatter over the pasta.

Recipe Notes

Vegetarian version: To make this mostaccioli vegetarian, replace the sausage. with 2 cups cooked vegetables, such as diced carrots, small broccoli or cauliflower florets, or peas.

Make ahead: The assembled mostaccioli can be refrigerated, covered in aluminum foil, up to 2 days in advance. Add a few minutes to the bake time if the cheese is not browning.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.