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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
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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.

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.


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. Or make our Homemade Spaghetti Sauce where they’re included in the sauce!
  • 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

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5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
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This easy baked rigatoni is all about crowd pleasing flavor! Bake this popular pasta with garlicky tomato sauce, fresh basil, and gooey mozzarella.


  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 24 ounce jar marinara sauce (or make Homemade Spaghetti Sauce)
  • 15 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (or best quality tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • ½ cup basil, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (or shredded)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling.


  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 ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon onion powder and 1 pinch red pepper flakes and the ½ 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 ¼ 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
  • Diet: Vegetarian

More rigatoni recipes

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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Sandy Gotter says:

    I tried the rigatoni for father’s day and it was amazing!!! Thanks for your recipe. My family loved it.

    1. So glad to hear that! Thanks for making it!

  2. Janice Rosenberg says:

    This is an excellent basic recipe. I made a number of changes and my husband and I both enjoyed it. I think saying it takes only 10 minutes of prep time is a joke. I mixed half the mozz with the pasta and added some chopped kalamata olives. I sprinkled the rest of the mozz on top. I made half a recipe so for sauce, I used one can of fire roasted tomatoes plus about a tablespoon and a half of chopped sundried tomatoes in oil and added enough cherry tomatoes which I happened to have on hand to make the other five ounces of tomato sauce. I do not like jarred sauce.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I recently had to make two baked rigatoni dishes for a Friday funeral reception. Since it’s Lent, we couldn’t include meat in our dish. I chose to make two pans of your Baked Rigatoni, and it was a big hit. I am making it today for family coming over, and I am going to add ground meat and possibly sausage. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

  4. Goldy says:

    Thanks for recipe!

  5. A says:

    Lovely recipe, but this isn’t vegetarian unless one is careful about what Parmesan they buy. Parm is traditionally made with animal rennet, and since that typically comes from distinctly non vegetarian sources, be careful when shopping to buy Parm made with vegetarian friendly rennet

  6. Andrea says:

    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

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

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