Best Rigatoni Ever: The Only Rigatoni Pasta Recipe You’ll Ever Need

rigatoni pasta recipe

Rigatoni pasta | iStock.com

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There’s just something about baked pasta. Whether it’s a big helping of rich, indulgent mac and cheese or a plate full of Grandma’s special lasagna, the combination of noodles, sauce, and other ingredients rarely fails to satisfy. Plus, most baked pasta recipes are for unfussy comfort food, so even amateur cooks can turn out delicious meals without too much effort, as is the case with this rigatoni recipe from Williams-Sonoma, adapted from Make Ahead.

What makes this the best rigatoni recipe we could find? For one, it features the same flavors as your favorite lasagna recipe, but it’s way easier to prepare. Rigatoni (which is ideal for baking, according to Bon Appétit), Italian sausage, and ricotta cheese are all combined in one pan, just like a lasagna, but the prep goes faster since you don’t have to layer the ingredients or make a separate cheese filling. The recipe produces a generous amount and the leftovers reheat well, so it works whether you’re hosting dinner for a crowd or just feeding a few.

When making this recipe, make sure you don’t overcook the pasta, since it will continue to soften as it bakes. And resist the urge to dig in as soon as it comes out of the oven. Like all baked pastas, you’ll want to let it rest for a few minutes so you don’t burn your mouth when eating.

Baked Rigatoni with Ricotta and Sausage

Bowl filled with rigatoni pasta

Rigatoni pasta | iStock.com

This rigatoni pasta recipe from Williams-Sonoma calls for a homemade roasted tomato and red pepper sauce, but you can substitute an equivalent amount of your favorite tomato sauce.

Ingredients:

For the roasted tomato sauce

  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and quartered
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into wedges
  • 3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 garlic heads, halved crosswise
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil

For the baked rigatoni

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing dish
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 3 cups roasted tomato sauce
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pitted black Mediterranean olives
  • 2 tablespoons salt, plus more, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1¾ cups ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other Parmesan cheese

Directions: To make the sauce, preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic on two rimmed baking sheets. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables until tender and golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool until easy to handle.

Remove and discard the skins from the roasted peppers and tomatoes and transfer the flesh to a bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the cloves into the bowl and add the onions and basil. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper. You should have about 8 cups of sauce. Set aside 3 cups for the baked rigatoni and freeze the rest in an airtight container for future use. Sauce can be made up to three days ahead of time and will keep for 3 months in the freezer.

To make the rigatoni, preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a deep 2½-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the sausage and sauté, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, about 6 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce and olives, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, add the 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the pasta is not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain again.

Return the pasta to the cooking pot. Stir in the tomato sauce and ricotta. Spread the pasta and sauce in the prepared dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Bake until the surface is golden and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then serve.

Recipe tips

Red wine bottle and corkscrew

Bottle of red wine | iStock.com

Baked pasta dishes are easy, but that doesn’t mean they’re foolproof. For best results with this recipe, you want to make sure you don’t overcook the pasta. Instead, drain it just before it’s al dente.

Those trying to eat healthier may want to substitute whole-wheat pasta for traditional white pasta and turkey Italian sausage for fattier pork varieties. You can use either hot or sweet sausage, depending on your preference. Serve the finished dish with your favorite red wine and add a fresh green salad to get some more veggies in your meal.

To save time in the kitchen, you might be tempted to assemble this dish the night before, but that’s not the best strategy, according to Fine Cooking’s Erica DeMane. Dumping all the ingredients for a baked pasta into a casserole dish and then refrigerating for a day or so until you’re ready to bake yields “good — not great” results. But you can prep the sauce a few days in advance (months if you freeze it) and sauté the sausage ahead of time. Cook the pasta the day-of and quickly assemble the ingredients for baking.

Follow Megan on Twitter @MeganE_CS