Mostaccioli is a comforting baked pasta dish made with penne shaped pasta noodles and Italian sausage smothered in tomato sauce, topped with creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheese and baked until bubbly. Perfect for busy weeknight dinners, the whole family will love this delicious baked mostaccioli recipe.
What is Mostaccioli?
Mostaccioli (MOS-TAC-CI-OLI) is actually the name given to a very specific type of pasta. Known throughout Italy as “Penne Lisce“, Mostaccioli is nearly identical to tube-shaped, angle cut, Penne.
A specialty from the Campania region of southern Italy, unlike penne, Mostaccioli has a smooth texture, whereas penne pasta is rigid and textured.
Mostaccioli noodles are delicious tossed with light sauces and vegetables or baked with heavier sauces and cheese, as we’re doing today and similar to this baked ziti recipe.
Alright, who’s ready to make some cheesy comfort food!
Ingredients, Substitutions, and Variations
- Olive oil
- Sweet Italian sausage
- Fresh garlic
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Italian seasoning
- Salt and Black pepper
- Canned whole peeled tomatoes
- Tomato paste
- Mostaccioli pasta (substitute with penne if necessary)
- Whole milk ricotta cheese
- Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
- Fresh parsley
Mostaccioli. Mostaccioli al forno. Extra cheesy baked pasta with meat-filled pasta sauce. Modified lasagna. Whatever you choose to call it, they all mean the same delicious, thing.
What are some possible substitutions for Italian Sausage?
Feel free to swap the Italian sausage for ground beef or ground turkey. You may also switch the sweet Italian sausage for hot or mild Italian sausage.
- TIP: Purchase pre-ground Italian sausage rather than links of Italian sausage that need to be removed from their casing.
Can I use a different type of sauce?
Baked Mostaccioli is definitely best when smothered in some sort of sauce, but that does mean it needs to be a meat sauce. Add simple marinara sauce, spicy arrabbiata sauce, homemade pesto sauce (you’ll need to be quite generous or mix it with a bit of pasta water), or alfredo sauce.
Can I use a different type of pasta noodle?
Absolutely. Here in the states, Mostaccioli can be hard to find (at least I had a hard time!) Substitute with penne or ziti for the same familiar shape.
You may also switch things up entirely and try using whole wheat, gluten-free pasta. Always remember to follow the package directions, cooking just to al dente.
What veggies will taste good in this recipe?
If you’re like me at all then you’re probably wondering where all the veggies are. Well, aside from the sauce, there isn’t much in this recipe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add any. Try adding kale, spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, or bell peppers to this cheesy baked pasta.
How to Make Baked Mostaccioli
Assuming you’re making everything from scratch (minus the pasta, I don’t have a recipe for that just yet) here’s how it goes,
- Start by browning the sausage (or ground meat of choice) in a large skillet until golden and fully cooked. Remove to a clean plate and use the same skillet to soften the onions with some garlic and seasoning like salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, or dried herbs. Add a dash of crushed red chili flakes if you like a little heat.
- Next, pulse the canned and stewed tomatoes in a large blender. Try not to puree it into a soup, unless you’re into that. Set aside a half cup of your tomato sauce.
- Return the sausage back to the skillet and add the tomato sauce. Mix approximately one tablespoon of tomato paste with the reserved tomato sauce and add it to the skillet.
- Mix everything together really well and bring it to a low and gentle simmer.
- Meanwhile, cook the mostaccioli to al dente. So about 2 minutes less than the recommended package instructions. Drain completely.
- Set oven to 425 degrees F and assemble your casserole. Remove the meat sauce from heat and spread a thin layer over the bottom of your pan. Arrange the remaining pasta in an even layer. Top with your remaining meat sauce mixture, ricotta mixture, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for about 15-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.
Can You Make Ahead or Freeze Mostaccioli?
You can both make-ahead and freeze Mostaccioli.
To make-ahead and freeze simply cook up until it comes time to bake. Instead, cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and transfer to the refrigerator or freeze until ready to bake.
When baking from frozen, cooking time will be higher. I recommend tenting your casserole dish with foil for the first 30-40 minutes, uncovering, and baking for an additional 20 minutes or so.
If you try making this Baked Mostaccioli Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to read your thoughts and feedback!
More Pasta Recipes,
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- 1 tbsp olive oil (divided)
- 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage ((purchase ground sausage if you can find it, otherwise remove from sausage casing and breaking into small pieces as you cook))
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 6 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp dried oregano (or Italian seasoning)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 lb box mostaccioli (or penne if you can find it)
- 1 large egg
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
- fresh minced parsley (for serving)
- Preheat oven to 425°F and spray a large baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the ground Italian sausage and use a large spoon or spatula to break apart into small pieces until cooked and golden, approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove the sausage to a clean plate and set aside.
- Leave approximately 1 tablespoon of sausage grease in the skillet - discard the rest.
- Return your skillet to medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often for 6-8 minutes, or until softened. Add the minced garlic, red chili flakes (if using), oregano, salt, and black pepper. Mix well to combine and continue to cook for approximately 1 minute, stirring continuously.
- Return the sausage back to the skillet and combine with the onions.
- Meanwhile, add the canned tomatoes to a large blender and pulse until blended - but not pureed. Transfer all but half a cup of your processed tomatoes to the skillet with the sausage and onions. Transfer the half cup of remaining tomatoes to a small bowl and mix with one tablespoon of tomato paste. Add to your sauce. Bring everything to a low simmer, then reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook pasta until al dente, approximately 2 minutes less than package instructions. Drain into a colander and set aside.
- As your pasta cooks, lightly beat your egg in a medium-size bowl. Add the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix well to combine.
- To assemble, remove the meat sauce from heat and spread a thin layer over the bottom of your pan. Arrange the cooked pasta in an even layer. Top with your remaining meat sauce mixture, ricotta mixture, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.
- Use premade store-bought marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce (you will need approximately 2 jars)
- Purchase pre-shredded cheese (I prefer to shred my own, but sometimes it's nice to have it ready to go)
- Purchase pre-ground Italian sausage rather than links of Italian sausage that need to be removed from their casing
- Prepare ahead of time- before baking cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate until approximately 30 minutes before serving
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)