1 batch of our Italian Tomato Sauce recipe (1½ quarts or 6 cups)
18 meatballs (2 ½ ounces each) from our Italian-Style Meatballs recipe (about 2 ¾ pounds cooked meatballs) (freeze the remainder) **
1 ½ pounds sweet Italian sausage links
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound dry rigatoni
8 ounces baby Bella (Cremini) mushrooms, quartered
1 jumbo green bell pepper, sliced into thick slices top to bottom
1 large onion, sliced into thick long slices top to bottom
1 pound Fontina cheese, shredded
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving.
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Prepare the Italian Tomato Sauce. (Recipe cooks for 90 minutes.)
While sauce is simmering, prepare our Italian-Style Meatballs by mixing, baking, then remove from oven and set aside. Reserve 18 meatballs for this recipe and freeze the rest for another meal.
Place a large pot of water on to boil. This pot of water will be used to blanch the sausages and then cook the pasta in the same water. Then finally the drained pasta and some of the tomato sauce will be mixed in this same pot before transferring to a baking pan. So, make sure the pot is large enough. I used a six-quart Dutch oven.
Separate the sausage links so each link is separated but still sealed in its casing. Place them all into the boiling water and cook for five minutes. After five minutes, use tongs and remove to paper towels to dry. Turn the pot of water off for now but do not discard water.
In a very large skillet or saute pan, add 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and once hot, add the blanched sausages. Cook and turn until all sides are browned, about ten minutes. Remove to a platter to rest.
In the same pan, add two more tablespoons of the oil and once hot, add the mushrooms and cook to brown, about five minutes. Remove to a bowl.
Add the last two tablespoons of oil and add the bell pepper and onion strips and cook for about 5-10 minutes until just starting to get soft. Add the mushrooms, plus any liquid, to the pan with the peppers and onions and remove from the heat.
Cut each sausage link on the bias into four thick slices.
By now your sauce should be close to done so preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and turn that pot of water back on to boil.
Once the water is boiling, salt it and add the pasta and cook until the pasta is about two minutes shy of being done, still chewy. Pour into a colander to drain.
Prepare a 9X13X3 inch*** (or larger) casserole dish by first spraying with kitchen pan spray then lining the bottom with one cup of sauce.
Pour the drained pasta back into the pot and add four cups of the tomato sauce and gently mix to combine.
Place one third of the pasta in the casserole dish and add one third of the meatballs, one third of the sausage and one third of the pepper, onion and mushroom mixture.
Top this with all of the fontina cheese.
Top the fontina with another one third of pasta, meatballs, sausage and vegetables then sprinkle on all of the Parmesan cheese.
Add the remaining pasta, meatballs, sausage and vegetables and top with the remaining cup of sauce and all of the mozzarella cheese.
Place a sheet of foil on the rack just below where you put the casserole dish to catch drips.
Bake for 30 minutes uncovered and enjoy.
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*The preparation and cooking times are actually less than the four hours I list; you will be preparing one component while cooking the next, etc. It took me 2 ½ hours from start to finish.
**Our Italian meatballs recipe makes 28 meatballs and for this baked Rigatoni recipe, you only need 18 meatballs. Cutting the meatball recipe would be too difficult because the ingredients can not be evenly reduced. So best to make the whole recipe and just freeze what you don’t use.
***Our 9X13X3 casserole dish was overfilled but still kept everything in but it did bubble a bit on the edges and over the top. I lined the rack below with foil to catch the drips but you could also start with a larger casserole dish or even use a roasting pan.