Cheesy sausage pasta bake with arugula and fresh mozzarella, that holds all delicious flavours of lasagna without the fuss, and comes together in one pan in under an hour. Perfect for weeknight dinners!
For more cheesy pasta dishes, check out our Brie and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
Whenever I need a dinner, I know is guaranteed to be a hit with everyone, I turn to this simple sausage pasta bake. This recipe has been on a regular rotation in our house for years and we never get tired of it.
During busy times I am so thankful for Italians and their invention of pasta, especially thick and chewy, smothered in melty mozzarella.
This pasta recipe is the definition of clever shortcuts in the kitchen, that produce comfort food. We are big lasagna fans but cooking it is a lengthy process.
This cheesy sausage pasta delivers the flavours of the lasagna but significantly cuts down on the prep time.
As I mentioned above, this baked sausage and arugula pasta is a quick and easy spin on lasagna. Same flavours, less fuss.
- short pasta such as fusilli, penne or your favourite kind
- good quality sausage
- good quality canned tomatoes
- garlic, basil and fennel seeds (the latter ingredient is optional but recommended)
- arugula or spinach
- fresh mozzarella balls or shredded mozzarella
- a handful or cherry tomatoes cut in half
Italian Sausage Pasta Recipe Tips
The real shortcut in my cheesy pasta bake recipe is the use of sausages instead of ground beef since they cook quicker and are infused with so much flavour already.
Lots of herbs and spices that were added by the manufacturer bring flavour to the entire dish in a short amount of time.
Another flavour maker in this baked sausage pasta is fennel seeds. To me, they are the embodiment of southern Italy. They add this little je ne sais quoi to the whole dish I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Or to put it plainly, they add a touch of sweetness and infuse the tomato sauce with much fragrance.
Adding sweet cherry tomatoes to the top your pasta casserole together with sliced fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves is not difficult or expensive to do but immediately turns this humble pasta bake into something special.
I’ve also tossed the pasta with fresh arugula or, as it is known in the UK, rocket before I baked the pasta to balance out the sweetness of the tomato sauce with a touch of peppery taste. If you don’t like arugula, spinach would be a great substitute.
Lastly, use the best quality canned tomatoes you can find. Ripe and canned tomatoes taste sweet while under ripe tomatoes will be acidic, which will negatively impact the overall taste of your pasta bake.
More Baked Pasta Recipes:
- Easy Baked Ziti
- Baked Gnocchi with Meat Sauce and Mozzarella
- Layered Italian Baked Mac and Cheese
- Stuffed Shells with Pesto and Tomato Beef Sauce
Recipe originally published in 10/2015. Updated in 03/2021.
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 300 g/6 sausages
- ½ tsp fennel seeds
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 7-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped or 1 tsp dried basil
- 400g/14oz can of chopped tomatoes
- 500ml/2 cups tomato passata/crushed tomatoes
- 1 lbs short pasta such as fusilli or penne
- 60g/3cups of arugula/rocket
- 2 balls of thickly sliced fresh mozzarella/8 oz shredded mozzarella
- 5-6 cherry tomatoes halved
- 3-4 basil leaves
- Remove casing from sausages, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep pan and cook sausage meat over medium heat while breaking it up in small chunks with a wooden spoon until no longer pink for 7-10 minutes. Add garlic, fennel seeds and basil, cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add canned diced tomatoes and tomato passata or crushed tomatoes, bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. While the sauce is simmering cook pasta according to package instructions minus 2 minutes. Pasta should be quite firm as it will be baked later.
- Drain pasta and add to the sauce along with fresh arugula or spinach. Top with sliced mozzarella, halved cherry tomatoes and basil leaves. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil. Bake at 375F/19C for 20 minutes until piping hot and the cheese is melted and golden.