DINNER HAPPENED : Baked Rigatoni with Sneaky Cauliflower + Homemade Italian Sausage

I have to admit I don’t like vegetables. Gasp! That’s a terrible admission for a food blogger, right? But no matter how hard I try, I just can’t enjoy them. So if you – or more likely your kids – hate veggies too, this baked rigatoni with (shh!) cauliflower is one of the tastiest ways I’ve found to “sneak” veggies into my diet. Baked rigatoni takes a bit more time to prepare, but it’s easy to put together the night before and bake right before serving. You’ll have a warm, hearty dinner in 30 minutes!
Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Time saver! Frozen cauliflower

To make the dish even easier, I used frozen cauliflower – one of the best kitchen time savers I’ve found! Let the florets defrost, cook them for a few minutes in the microwave, and then rinse, dry and toss into whatever you’re cooking.

Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Homemade Italian Sausage

My other tasty secret is using homemade Italian sausage. You can quickly make it from scratch with ground beef, ground pork and Italian sausage seasoning mix. I made a huge batch of this spice mix for emergency Italian sausage pizza cravings.

Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower
Recipe type: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 8 – 12

  • 1 pound frozen cauliflower florets, cut into ½” florets
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons Italian sausage spice blend
  • ½ pound uncooked rigatoni pasta
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 3 (28-ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • ½ cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
  • ½ pound mozzarella cheese

  1. Prepare the frozen cauliflower florets according to the package instructions. For me, this meant letting the cauliflower defrost, sprinkling a little water over the cauliflower, and microwaving in a microwave safe dish on full power for 3 minutes.
  2. Rinse the cauliflower and pat it dry.
  3. In a large bowl with a fork, mix together the ground pork, ground beef and 2 teaspoons of the Italian sausage spice blend.
  4. Heat your largest pan over medium high heat and cook the ground meat, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Add more Italian seasoning to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to package instructions.
  6. Spoon the meat onto a plate lined with a paper towel, drain all but about a teaspoon of the fat from the pan, and return the pan to the heat.
  7. Preheat the oven to 450°F and grease a large lasagna pan or casserole dish.
  8. Add the minced garlic to the pan and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  9. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes and stir.
  10. Let this simmer for 3 minutes, still over medium high heat, and then stir in the cream cheese, basil and Pecorino Romano.
  11. Add in the meat, stir, and salt to taste.
  12. Add in the noodles and cauliflower and stir until well combined.
  13. Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared lasagna dish.
  14. Cover with half of the mozzarella.
  15. Add the remaining pasta and the remaining mozzarella on top of that.
  16. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese starts to turn golden brown. If the rigatoni was previously refrigerated, bake for 25 – 30 minutes.
  17. Remove the rigatoni from the oven, let it sit for 10 minutes and then serve.
  18. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 5 days.

5 Day Meal Plan


Baked Rigatoni with Cauliflower (recipe above)

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage | Henry Happened


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Baked Rigatoni meal plan | Henry Happened What’s on your dinner menu this week?

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The blogger behind Texanerin Baking is a contributing food editor

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