Baked Rigatoni Pasta

This easy baked rigatoni is all about crowd pleasing flavor! Bake this popular pasta with garlicky tomato sauce, fresh basil, and gooey mozzarella.

Baked rigatoni

Here’s a vegetarian dinner idea that marries basic Italian flavors into a mess of garlicky, gooey goodness: Baked Rigatoni! It’s a pasta bake that’s got all the comfort of tomato sauce and cheese, but has intrigue and uniqueness in the flavors. The tomato sauce is full of garlic and a little fennel for meatiness, and it’s got lots of fresh peppery basil for a herbaceous kick. Cover it in gooey mozzarella cheese and you’ve got a dish that’s hearty enough to please any eater.

Ingredients in baked rigatoni

The sauce in this baked rigatoni is full of tangy tomato flavor! As you’ll see, we’ve used a few tricks to get big flavor with little effort. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rigatoni pasta
  • Marinara sauce Use your favorite, high quality brand.
  • Fire roasted crushed tomatoes If you can’t find them, use any high quality crushed tomatoes. More on fire roasted is below!
  • Fresh garlic Key for big Italian flavors!
  • Onion powder and fennel These add to the meatiness.
  • Fresh basil Peppery fresh basil brings an herby zing.
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese Use shredded mozzarella if you can’t find it.
  • Parmesan cheese Grated Parmesan finishes it off with a savory sharpness.
Rigatoni

What is rigatoni?

Rigatoni is a tube-shaped pasta that usually has ridges on the outside, used in cuisine from Southern and Central Italy. It’s larger in diameter than penne and is cut straight, not on the diagonal. Rigatoni comes from the Italian word rigato which means “ridged”. It’s easy to find at most grocery stores.

What we like about rigatoni? One bite of rigatoni feels somehow more substantial than penne, and the shape tends to hold sauces a bit better. However, it’s very similar to penne and can easily be substituted for it. Rigatoni is a short cut type of pasta, so you can substitute it with many short cut pasta shapes.

How to make baked rigatoni: basic steps

This baked rigatoni is missing one thing that most rigatoni recipes have: meat! That makes it even easier than most to put together, and it works as a vegetarian main dish. Here’s all you have to do to make it:

  • Boil the pasta to al dente. Air on the side of a firm al dente, since the pasta will cook a little more as it bakes. See below for more!
  • Make the sauce. Saute garlic, add marinara, fire roasted tomatoes and spices, and simmer just a few minutes.
  • Combine, top with cheese, and bake. You’ll bake 25 minutes: 15 with foil and 10 without.
Baked rigatoni

How to cook pasta to al dente

What’s al dente? In Italian it means “to the bite” and means pasta that is still firm on the inside when cooked. The ideal al dente texture is a tender exterior balanced by a firm bite with a fleck of white at its core. Note that for this rigatoni recipe, you can air on the side of firm because the pasta cooks more as it bakes. Here’s how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
  • While cooking, check pasta continually for doneness.
  • As soon as the pasta has a tender exterior but a fleck of white at its core, drain it! Even a few seconds can be the difference between al dente and limp noodles.

Make ahead tips!

Yes! You can make the pasta right up until the baking step. Then refrigerate it until baking! We’d suggest refrigerating for only 24 hours. You may have to bake slightly longer: make sure that it’s fully warmed through and the cheese is fully melted.

Rigatoni

Fire roasted tomatoes have the best flavor

Last note on ingredients: we recommend using canned fire roasted tomatoes here. Why fire roasted? Fire roasted canned tomatoes have a sweet flavor right out of the can. So you don’t have to spend a long time simmering for great flavor. There are several of brands of fire roasted tomatoes these days that should be available at your local grocery.

Using these tomatoes is a little less crucial for a recipe like this where you’re combining them with marinara sauce. So if you can’t find them: buy the best quality tomatoes you can find!

Variations on baked rigatoni

You can always add mix-ins to this rigatoni! Here are some ideas on ingredients to add:

  • Cooked ground beef or plant based meat crumbles: Make it ultra traditional and saute meat or veggie crumbles. Add them to the pasta and sauce before baking.
  • Spinach and mushrooms: Saute mushrooms and spinach like in our Vegan Lasagna filling.
  • Other veggies. Saute other veggies you have on hand to add to the mix! Some ideas: kale, red pepper, zucchini, and so forth.
Cheese pull

This rigatoni recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free or legume pasta.

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Baked rigatoni

Baked Rigatoni Pasta


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 4.75 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This easy baked rigatoni is all about crowd pleasing flavor! Bake this popular pasta with garlicky tomato sauce, fresh basil, and gooey mozzarella.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 24 ounce jar marinara sauce
  • 15 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (or best quality tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup basil, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (or shredded)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush a 9 x 13″ baking dish with olive oil.
  2. Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the rigatoni until it is just al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes). Drain.
  3. Meanwhile, mince the garlic. In a separate pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the basil, marinara sauce, and tomatoes and stir for 1 minute. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder and 1 pinch red pepper flakes and the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the sauce and the drained pasta into the baking dish. Top with torn pieces of mozzarella. Sprinkle the entire top with generous sprinkles of Parmesan cheese.
  5. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until browned.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and top with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided over the top. Let stand 5 minutes. If desired, garnish with chopped basil. (Make ahead instructions: Make the pasta through Step 4 and cover with foil. Refrigerate until baking, up to 24 hours.)

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Rigatoni

More rigatoni recipes

Love rigatoni? Us too! Here are a few recipes that highlight this tasty pasta shape:

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Andrea
    June 26, 2020 at 6:53 am

    The directions never indicate when to add the jarred marinara sauce. I’m assuming at step 3, adding it to the fire roasted tomatoes, etc.? Also, instruction #1 says to brush the dish. Once again, I’m assuming to do so with olive oil? Will someone confirm these assumptions? Thanks

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      June 26, 2020 at 11:55 am

      You are correct and the recipe is updated. Thank you!

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