Oh, rigatoni, how we adore you. Even the name alone is a joy to say and might be one of the best-sounding dishes in existence.
Say it with me… Rigatoni. It just sort of ‘trips off the tongue’ and begs for your most theatrical Italian accent, doesn’t it?
Usually (but not always) cooked in a red meat sauce, pasta bake dishes like rigatoni are celebrated everywhere for serving any purpose and providing an instant mood lift. Hearty, usually quite rich in flavor, and highly satisfying, rigatoni is easy to cook and gives you way more back than you put in.
So, whether you are looking to bowl someone over with something that looks quite impressive or knock up a quick family meal that everyone will enjoy, a rigatoni recipe should be on your go-to list.
The Perfect Pasta Bake Shape
Rigatoni comes from the Italian word for ridged, owing to its concertina, line-shaped surface. It is most common in the southern regions of Italy but has taken flight worldwide as a popular pasta option.
The design ensures that sauces penetrate the hollow inside and cling to the ridges outside, providing the perfect pasta-to-sauce ratio in every mouthful.
Sometimes with a spaghetti dish, for example, you might throw down a spoonful of mostly bare pasta with only a dribble of sauce – that never happens with baked rigatoni. Each mouthful is more dependable, you could say.
If you don’t cook rigatoni very often, you are simply missing out. So, to help with that, we put together a fantastic list of our recipes that should tick all boxes: hearty, zesty, punchy, and we even have a spicy option for something different.
Our favorite rigatoni recipes, in no particular order:
We decided to head straight in with a classy Italian option, the amazing Rigatoni Cavolfiore (cauliflower).
This very traditional Italian dish hails originally from the Campania area. The dish is usually made with rigatoni pasta, cauliflower florets, garlic, anchovies, black olives, capers, hot pepper or (red pepper flakes), olive oil, and salt and pepper.
The cauliflower is commonly boiled and diced into small bite-sized pieces.
The garlic and pepper are sautéed in olive oil until golden brown before the garlic is removed and the olives, anchovies, and capers are added. Then, cook over low heat until the anchovies are disintegrated into the mix. Cauliflower is added late in the cook so that it clings to the sauce.
Mouth-watering and very Italian.
After our quick stop in southern Italy, let’s bring it back home with an American-style cooked pasta recipe. Good old chicken riggies.
This is a much-loved pasta sauce dish, born out of New Jersey in the seventies. There are a few different variations, but most of them involve the following ingredients in one form or another: rigatoni pasta, hot peppers (sweet is fine, too), chicken, and a tomato and cream sauce, which is sometimes a little on the spicy side.
You won’t find many New Jersey or New York Italian restaurants without riggies on the menu. The story goes that the historic Clinton House invented the dish, which became popular with local workers, and eventually became a classic American dish all over the country.
There is even a yearly “reggie festival” with cooks from all over the area coming together to impress judges and locals with their version of the dish.
You can put your own spin on it by adding a few subtle variations, such as clotted cream, fish, or sliced steak. Works well as a baked rigatoni also.
Quite a hearty baked rigatoni pasta dish, this one. Using creamy thick goat cheese, a touch of ricotta, mozzarella cheese (buffalo is better, but regular is okay), and even a healthy dose of grated Parmesan cheese, you can serve up an absolute slice of heaven for the serious cheese lovers amongst us.
This crowd-feeding Italian sausage rigatoni recipe is simple to make and serves as amazing comfort food on busy mid-week work nights, so here is a great tip: if you usually have leftovers, double the ingredients, but leave out the mozzarella cheese, include cherry tomatoes, and half a cup of Parmesan for a casserole you can throw in the freezer.
Ok, hear me out first. You will decide that there is no way a simple recipe involving tomato paste, cream, and onion can work together in a few minutes to produce one of the most incredible pasta sauce rigatoni recipes you have ever experienced.
But you would be wrong! Because this sauce, like many simple things in life, is absolutely terrific.
Try it, but consider using a double-concentrated tomato paste which packs more punch than the standard paste and delivers a rich and hearty message to the flavor.
This is a great evening or weekend supper paired with a green salad and some nice crusty bread. Essential enough for everyday use while still being elegant enough to serve guests. Kids love it, too.
The choice of sausage is entirely up to you, and it doesn’t matter – you can add pretty much any protein to this dish without a problem, although baked rigatoni with Italian sausage seems to be the most popular choice. Throw on a few cherry tomatoes to add a little color to the finish.
Unfortunately, this dish won’t get you even remotely tipsy despite the recipe name. The alcohol will evaporate on cooking, leaving vodka’s distinct but subtle hue in the sauce. It’s classic and ubiquitous in Italian restaurants.
Vodka sauce is an Italian-American sauce made from smooth tomato sauce, vodka, herbs, and heavy cream. The cream gives this sauce its signature “orange” hue, as its combination with the red sauce turns the sauce orange.
The vodka in the sauce serves two purposes. The first is that vodka helps release the good flavors in the tomato sauce. Secondly, vodka acts as an emulsifier, keeping the consistency of the sauce stable, so the oil in the cream sauce doesn’t react with the acidic tomato sauce to separate from the water.
Consider throwing in a few shallots and maybe something like prosciutto to enhance the sauce even further, and don’t be shy with the Parmesan – this dish requires a healthy sprinkling!
An absolute classic! Warm and fuzzy comfort food that is easy to cook tastes delicious and is loved by almost everyone (well, the meat eaters, at least). This simple baked rigatoni in Bolognese sauce is incredibly cheesy, packs a meaty ground beef punch, and fills the largest of families. Lean ground beef or even ground turkey can be used instead, with minimal effect on flavor owing to the dish’s complexity.
This is an excellent dish for preparing in advance and freezing for later and is often served as a Sunday pleaser for many Italian families, as it is so easy to make and very filling.
Baked rigatoni with ground beef bolognese has to be one of the top ten comfort foods of all time and is an essential go-to for any budding chef at home.
The huge rigatoni pasta noodles snuggle up perfectly with the ground beef and are best as a baked rigatoni – although this can also be cooked entirely as a stove dish in a large pot.
Can I get a yee-haa? The whole family will love this hugely American twist on a baked rigatoni dish. Famed for being easy to freeze leftovers, it is OK to make it the previous day and keep it in the fridge if you need to because it keeps so well.
Feel free to tinker with the recipe – try using two cans of mushroom soup, for example, instead of mushroom and chicken.
Using ground lamb helps this Greek-inspired baked rigatoni dish. This is another great recipe for preparing and cooking in advance and then freezing the unbaked casserole. Then, go ahead and bake it in the oven when you fancy it.
Pastitsio is the Greek equivalent of lasagna, similar in style to a more lavish baked ziti or baked spaghetti. Traditional Greek Pastitsio is not really a vegan or vegetarian dish, as it’s loaded with minced meat (usually ground beef) and dairy.
However, this Pastitsio recipe is vegan and vegetarian, so all the protein boxes are ticked here. Excellent served, hot or cold, this is a fabulous dish for all seasons.
If you want to follow a more traditional baked rigatoni Pastitsio, we have a lovely recipe for you right here.
For those of us who prefer something without a meat sauce, There are a variety of options for a more healthy eating, vegetarian, baked rigatoni pasta, and we have a few different options for you, in addition to our Greek Pastitsio.
Most of these vegetarian options include the baked rigatoni pasta essentials – olive oil, tomato sauces, marinara sauce, fresh basil leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, bell peppers, and Italian seasoning all make an appearance.
Rigatoni vs. Ziti, What’s the Difference?
The two are confused quite commonly. Rigatoni is more of a pasta style, while Ziti means pasta. Rigatoni is larger than Ziti and slightly curved, but not in the same vein as elbow macaroni.
Some brands of Rigatoni and Ziti might look very similar, almost the same, but they are, in fact, different.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some delicious baked rigatoni options?
Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel and Meat Sauce is a popular choice. You can also try Baked Rigatoni with Ricotta and Spinach, which combines creamy ricotta cheese with flavorful spinach. Another option is Baked Rigatoni with Chicken and Pesto, incorporating juicy chicken and aromatic pesto for a delicious and hearty dish.
How can I make a vegetarian rigatoni dish?
As a vegetarian, you can enjoy Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables, combining seasonal vegetables and a tasty tomato sauce. Another option is Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce, using a blend of mushrooms and a rich cream sauce. Lastly, Rigatoni alla Norma is a Sicilian classic that includes tomatoes, eggplant, and ricotta cheese.
Which creamy sauces pair well with rigatoni?
Rigatoni pairs well with a variety of creamy sauces like Alfredo, Gorgonzola, and Carbonara. Alfredo sauce is made with butter, cream, and Parmesan cheese, providing a rich and tasty complement to the pasta. Gorgonzola sauce combines blue cheese with cream for a tangy and flavorful finish. Carbonara sauce includes eggs, cheese, and pancetta, adding both creaminess and a savory element.
What is a healthy rigatoni recipe to try?
For a healthier rigatoni dish, try Whole Wheat Rigatoni with Lentil Marinara Sauce. This recipe uses fiber-rich whole wheat pasta and a protein-packed lentil marinara sauce. Another option is Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula, incorporating roasted vegetables and fresh arugula for added nutrients and a lighter dish.
Can rigatoni be used in a fancy pasta dish?
Absolutely! Rigatoni with Shrimp and Asparagus in a White Wine Sauce is an elegant choice, combining succulent shrimp and tender asparagus in a delicate sauce. Another option is Rigatoni with Truffled Mushroom Ragu, which includes luxurious, earthy truffle flavors in a rich mushroom-based sauce.
What are some popular rigatoni dishes with sausage?
Rigatoni with Sausage and Peppers is a classic, combining spicy Italian sausage, sweet bell peppers, and tomato sauce for a hearty, flavorful dish. Another popular option is Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel, and Pecorino, featuring aromatic fennel and tangy Pecorino cheese for a zesty and satisfying
Rigatoni Alla Vodka + 10 More Great Rigatoni Recipes
- Kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and a little extra for serving
- 1 onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 4.5-oz. tube double-concentrated tomato paste
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup vodka
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Fresh basil for serving
- Generously salt a large pot of water, and bring it to a boil.
- In a heavy pot, heat olive oil over a medium burner. Stir in the garlic and onions, and cook until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Squeeze in the tomato paste and add the red pepper flakes. Stir to mix.
- Stirring frequently, continue to cooking for another 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to brown and stick to the pan. Pour in the vodka to deglaze the pan. Use a spoon to scrape the stuck on bits of sauce, and turn the heat down to low.
- Ladle about ¼ cup of boiling water from pot and pour it into a small bowl with the cream. Slowly pour this into the onions, while stirring constantly. Continue cooking and stirring the ingredients form a cohesive sauce. Turn off the heat.
- Poor the pasta into the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Return the sauce to low heat. Stir in the cooked pasta and water. Add half the cheese and stir until it is melted and the pasta is coated with sauce. Season to taste with salt.
- To serve, place the pasta in bowls, and top with fresh basil, parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil.