Right after giving birth to my first daughter I was bombarded with a myriad of problems resulting from the delivery and anesthesia. The baby was healthy, but I wasn't doing so hot. My mom was coming to help, but I had a few days to get through once my hubby went back to work before she could come. So there I was, sick with a newborn and totally clueless as to how to survive. Nothing sounded good to eat, I felt like I had an elephant sitting on top of my head, and I was a human pacifier.
After one particularly long day of Gilmore Girls reruns, sporadic napping, smelling of the plague and eating nothing but microwave popcorn and pineapple juice, I got a knock on my door. A friend from church was holding a hot casserole dish and had her own one week old curled up in the Baby Bjorn. A saint, right? That meal she brought over that night, 6 years ago, has forever won a place in my heart. I needed it that night, more than she knew and probably more than I even knew. It restored my energy, fed my body and soul, and filled my house with aromas sweeter than those permeating from me.
You can probably guess that this pasta al forno is what was brought to me that night. It's creamy, saucy, super flavorful, and might be one of the most perfect comfort foods ever. This recipe comes straight from the saint that carried it to my doorstep. She spent 18 months in Italy as a missionary and told me that it was one of the dishes she learned to make while there. In Italian "al forno" references food that has been cooked in the oven, so pasta al forno is simply pasta cooked in the oven. This recipe pairs a meaty tomato sauce with creamy béchamel, mozzarella cheese, and rigatoni—what's not to love?
Let's make it! Start by browning 1 ½ lbs of mild Italian sausage until cooked through and drain off the fat.
Pasta Al Forno
- 1 ½ lbs mild italian sausage
- 2 14.5 oz cans petite diced tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoon fresh basil chopped
- 1 4 oz stick butter
- ½ C + 2 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 ½ C whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 lb dry rigatoni cooked
- 2 C mozzarella cheese shredded
- Brown sausage until cooked through and drain off excess fat. Stir in tomatoes and garlic and bring to a simmer. Cook covered on low for at least 30 minutes, longer if time allows. Stir in basil just before assembly.
- Make the bechamel by melting butter in a medium sized sauce pan. Stir the flour into the butter, adding more flour if needed to create a toothpaste-like consistency. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Using a whisk, stir in milk and continue to stir until it comes to a boil and is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in salt and nutmeg.
- In a large casserole dish (9x13" or bigger) place half of the pasta followed by half of the tomato sauce and bechamel. Top with 1 C of mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat the layering one more time with the remaining ingredients.
- Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is browned.
Ashley O. says
This dish is simply amazing!! From the first time I made it my husband couldn't stop talking about it! Thank you so much for this recipe!
Just curious to know if you have the nutrition facts for this recipe?? Ive made this once before and it was SO good! planning on making it again tonight : )
My husband and i are always trying to eat very healthy, do you have any nutrional information on this delicious looking dish.
Looks great! Do you drain the canned tomatoes before adding them? I've seen some recipes that drain and others that don't.
Nope! Just pour the whole can in. 🙂
350º F o C
Catherine S says
I also served a mission in Italy and love Pasta al Forno. Found your recipe in a search today as I wanted to make a big pan of pasta for my son at college. I was missing the mozzarella cheese which I know is horrid, but I used provolone slices and it worked out well and is delicious! He'll be thrilled with a big pan of leftovers. Thanks!
I have a special little place in my heart for provolone and it goes great with pasta! Such a good mom for cooking for your college boy! 🙂
Alicia Dallas says
I found this recipe and your blog via Pinterest. Just tried this recipe out tonight and it was delicious. Everyone loved it including the kids!
This looks so good I absolutely have to try this. I was wondering if I can substitute the sausage with turkey or beef?
Definitely! I've used turkey italian sausage before and it turned out great. If you decide to use just plain turkey or beef you might want to spice up the sauce by using a bit of red chili flakes, additional salt, and perhaps a pinch of fennel seed. Good luck!
I made this tonight. It was delicious and pretty easy! I found your blog through Yahoo and will definitely come back for more yummy recipes. Thank you for a wonderful meal.
This looked so good I had to make it for dinner tonight. It wasn't hard at all .. but I did end up with several pots to wash. I am here to report that it was WORTH IT!!! Absolutely delicious and I will be making it again for sure. I froze half of it and we'll see how it holds up. My experience is that pasta and cheese usually suffers after a stint in the freezer. But we are dining very well at my house tonight indeed! Thanks for the recipe!
Awesome! Thanks for sharing.
mmm I loved baked pasta dishes! I actually have never tried to make my own before, its about time I give it a try!
Wow Heather, this looks & sounds very tasty indeed! I am definitely going to make it once I have all the ingredients!
BTW, you've done such a great job here with all the photos, I think it is just perfect for going onto the Instructables.com website too!