Ali Clarke makes Sausage and Pepper Pasta Bake, as seen on Meal Prepping with Ali Clarke on Food Network Kitchen.
Recipe courtesy of Ali Clarke

Sausage and Peppers Pasta Bake

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 9 hr 30 min (includes chilling time)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Sausage and peppers is a dish that takes me down memory lane: my mom and I make it every year in a big batch for family reunions. One year when we had leftovers, I realized that adding the slow-cooked sweet peppers and onions to tomato sauce gave it so much great flavor and a natural sweetness — no sugar needed. That, combined with my constant need to get ahead on meal prep, led me to develop this recipe. By assembling the dish the day before, you can avoid having to boil the pasta and instead let it sit in the sauce overnight to soften and absorb all that flavor. In the end, you’ll have a delicious pasta bake ready to pop into the oven when you’re ready for dinner. Plus, you can make a big batch of the tomato sauce to freeze along with any leftovers, making it truly the dish that keeps on giving.



  1. Heat a 4 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until hot, about 1 minute. Break up the sausage into small pieces, add to the Dutch oven and cook, without stirring, until the sausage is caramelized on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Begin to break up the sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon and continue to cook, stirring often, until caramelized all over, cooked through and broken into 1/2-inch pieces, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and set aside.
  2. If the Dutch oven is dry, add 1 tablespoon oil if needed and immediately stir in the peppers and onions. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes; the vegetables should not take on much color besides what comes from scraping the bottom of the pot to coat them in the sausage flavor.  
  3. Stir in the garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cook until the garlic just begins to toast and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste coats the vegetables, toasts slightly and becomes a darker shade of red, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree, red wine vinegar, dried oregano, basil and 4 cups water. Stir the sauce together and season with additional salt to taste; make sure the sauce is well seasoned since it will season the pasta as well.
  4. Stir in the rigatoni and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes. As soon as you see the first few bubbles, simmer for 1 more minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the reserved sausage. Carefully ladle the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Discard the basil. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight, at least 8 hours. The pasta will soften as it sits in the sauce.
  5. When ready to bake, remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and uncover. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Dollop the ricotta in 2- to 3-tablespoon mounds over the top of the dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake until bubbling around the edges and the ricotta begins to brown on top, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes, then garnish with basil leaves and more Parmesan.

Cook’s Note

I love developing recipes that work in many ways. For this recipe, you can double the tomato sauce and transfer half of it to an airtight container before you stir in the pasta and sausage. The tomato sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months and used for other meals during the week, such as a quick pasta dish, chicken Parmesan or eggs in purgatory. This dish also keeps on giving, because if you have leftovers, you can freeze the remainder in individual portions for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and reheat until warmed through in an oven at 300 degrees F or microwave on a microwave-safe dish using a low setting.