We’re talking rich, thick tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella and Italian turkey sausage, baked until bubbling. It’s cozier than a warm blanket!
Wintertime in our house means pasta. Not just pasta. Pasta with rich, thick tomato gravy and usually a generous helping of meatballs and Italian sausage.
Most Sunday mornings there’s a huge pot of meatballs and gravy on the stove by 8am, and everyone is helping themselves throughout the day.
This Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake is a family favorite when it’s cold outside. It’s cheesy, saucy and oh-so-comforting. There’s no better way to cozy up when you’re watching playoff football or binge-watching your favorite series.
Is Baked Ziti the same as a Pasta Bake?
Baked ziti is, itself, a pasta bake! It’s just named for the type of pasta it uses. Baked ziti is arguably the most well-known of all pasta bake recipes.
But you shouldn’t feel limited to this tube-shaped pasta. Truly, any short-cut pasta will work in a pasta bake. If you want a change from ziti pasta, try penne pasta, shells, rigatoni or even fusilli.
What’s in this Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake
The most important part of this baked pasta dish is the tomato gravy. Not sauce. Gravy. More on that at the bottom of this post.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Tomato puree. Puree is thicker than tomato sauce but thinner than tomato paste, making it the perfect textural base for our sauce. Gravy.
- Sweet peppers. These are the kind you find in a jar in many grocery stores. They add the trademark sweetness to this recipe that balances out the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Italian seasoning, consisting of dried basil, oregano and parsley.
The rest of this casserole is easy. Here are the remaining ingredients that you’ll need:
- Italian turkey sausage. You can usually find it in two varieties: sweet and hot. I like to use a combination. Use what you like.
- Ricotta cheese. If you’re looking to save some calories, the part-skim ricotta is a good option. For special occasions, I’ll use the whole milk kind.
- Mozzarella cheese. Same recommendation here as for the ricotta.
How to Make This Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake
First, get the gravy going. We’re going to sizzle the garlic, onions and sweet peppers in extra virgin olive oil until it smells amazing. Then, dump in the tomato puree and all of the spices.
We’re going to put the raw sausage right into the warm tomato gravy. It will cook in there and become really tender and delicious.
Once that’s done, all that’s left to do is combine the gravy with the cheeses and pour it over the cooked pasta in a casserole dish. Top the whole thing with plenty of cheese and let it bake!
Can you freeze baked pasta?
Freezing baked pasta is easy. Once the casserole cools to room temperature, you can easily scoop it out in large pieces. Wrap the pieces in plastic wrap, and then place them in either an airtight container or a freezer bag.
Reheat the pasta in the oven, covered with aluminum foil. You may like to add a little water to it, or more cheese just to freshen it up.
I almost always freeze our leftover Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake because it makes a big casserole! We’re never sad to have it in the freezer for those nights when we just don’t feel like cooking.
Tomato Sauce vs. Tomato Gravy
There is much debate over the terms sauce and gravy in the Italian-American community. Sometimes they are even used interchangeably, but let me assure you – they are not the same!
I was always taught that sauce means marinara. It’s lighter, has more tomato texture and takes less time to cook. Marinara sauce is awesome to make in the summer with the fresh tomatoes from your garden.
But gravy… now gravy is a whole different animal. A good gravy is, at its core, a meat sauce. It’s made with a handful of this and a pinch of that. It’s slow cooked all day. Its aroma fills the house, and it gets better every time you reheat it. Better = thicker, richer and more soul-soothing.
I think you’ll know what I mean once you try this recipe!
When you serve this Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake, be sure to have a big green salad to go along with it. We like my Classic Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons.
Add some garlic bread and a great bottle of red and you’re all set for a comfy, cozy winter night. Don’t forget to sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese!
If you love this recipe, I’d love to hear about it. Drop a rating or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
For more baked pasta recipes, try these:
- Cheesy Baked Pesto Pasta Recipe
- Chicken and Broccoli Mac and Cheese
- Vegetable Lasagna with White Sauce (Stouffer’s Copycat)
For more comfort food recipes, try these:
- Old Fashioned Chicken and Vegetable Stew
- Best Ever Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- Zesty Italian Chicken Soup
Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake
- 2 28 oz. cans tomato puree
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 12 oz. jar of sweet peppers diced
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. dried basil
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 2 Tbsp. dried parsley
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 6 links sweet Italian turkey sausage
- 6 links hot Italian turkey sausage
The Pasta Bake
- 1 lb. uncooked pasta
- 16 oz. whole milk ricotta
- 16 oz. shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
- 1 large egg
- Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with extra virgin olive oil. Add diced onions and minced garlic and toss in the olive oil until coated. Set the pot to medium heat. Once the garlic and onions start to sizzle and soften, add the diced sweet peppers and stir to combine. Allow this mixture to soften, 2-3 minutes.
- Add tomato puree, dry spices, salt, pepper and sugar. Stir until combined. Lower heat to a simmer.
- Peel the casing off the sausage links and break into bite-sized pieces. Drop the pieces into the gravy. Cover and simmer for at least 2 hours, occasionally stirring gently.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, egg and 1 cup of shredded mozzarella. Add 3-4 cups of tomato gravy and sausage, depending on how saucy you like it. Add the cooked pasta.
- Pour the entire thing into a 9×13 baking dish. Dot with additional spoonfuls of gravy and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over top. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted.